From 2D to 3D: A framework for increasing critical thinking, student engagement, and knowledge construction in online discussions

Streamed Session

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Are you looking to add more dimension to your discussions to make them even more engaging and encourage your students to develop their critical thinking skills? We will walk you through a new framework, developed out of our research (Berry & Kowal, 2022), that will help draw more out of your students to add depth to their responses and interactions with others. Come ready to apply a new model toward this essential component of many online courses and take your discussions from good to great!


Kristin Kowal is a Senior Instructional Designer for the Applied Computing Program at the University of Wisconsin Extended Campus. Kristin holds a Master of Science from the Graduate School of Library and Information Science (GSLIS) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She has thirteen years of experience in the instructional design field.

Extended Abstract

Discussions are one of the most widely used techniques in online courses to support learning and encourage engagement, and yet they rarely go beyond information sharing to reach knowledge construction. Both students and faculty can benefit from new approaches to online discussions. In this session, we’ll share our new Framework for Critical Thinking and Student Engagement in Online Discussions, which was developed out of our research (Berry & Kowal, 2022), to help participants create livelier, deeper discussions.

The presenters will be your tour guides through the framework, and along the way, you’ll see examples of the framework in action—transforming discussions from 2D to 3D before your very eyes! You will receive a copy of the framework to take with you.

Participant Engagement

Using their original artwork, the presenters will give attendees a lively visual tour of the framework. Attendees will also have time to reflect on their use of online discussions in relation to critical thinking and student engagement while examining effective ways to use discussions to engage students. 

Key Takeaways

  • Examine research highlights in the world of online discussions.
  • Explore effective ways to use online discussions to implement critical thinking, engagement, and connection.
  • Gain ideas that can be quickly applied to your own course discussions.


Berry, L. A., & Kowal, K. B. (2022). Effect of role-play in online discussions on student engagement and critical thinking. Online Learning, 26(3), 4-21