Reading complex, information-packed content that includes many completely new concepts is challenging: students may be tempted to breeze-through the text too fast, half an hour before class for which it was assigned, or late at night, twenty minutes before the submission deadline...
This is possibly the easiest online discussion type or "template" to implement. It is indispensable in any new or redesigned online course. I call it "see the forest discussion," but most people call similar activities "exit tickets." The interesting part is that it isn't really a "discussion" in the strict sense, but is worth considering, if you don't use it.
This is a really simple “template” for a week-long, time-sequenced online “jigsaw-type discussion,” and its potential effectiveness in promoting recall, and transfer of knowledge, is based on fairly basic, but solid, and well-established research evidence summarized at the end of this post.
Online discussions in some ways they are better than traditional face-to-face synchronous discussions. They are more equitable, giving everyone time to think, and leveling the playing field for intro- and extroverts (who are always guaranteed to win in face-to-face discussions!).
In content-heavy courses, across all levels, lecture is still the main method of content delivery. The challenge is: once you have a reasonably good lecture (say, 30 mins. long). What do you do? How do you transform your video lecture into a productive and effective learning activity? There are a few options, but this one is probably the easiest and best of them all.