To get the best results and not make your department go bankrupt in the process, separate course-content videos from occasional videos. This useful distinction deserves to get much more attention...
Helping students read (aka “Magic ink” activity)
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...
See the Forest Discussion (aka “The One”)
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.
How to build a 7-day jigsaw discussion
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.
Never, never, never of online discussions
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!).