Interaction in discussion boards provides variable engagement in the online classroom. Too many rules tied to the grading rubrics encourage students to limit their interactions to what is required. Not enough structure in the prompt discourages students from responding at all.
To facilitate cognitive presence, the discussion prompt and expectations should be very clear. Ideally, the instructor will model appropriate responses. Even more ideally, there is learner support in place, perhaps a peer tutor, who can facilitate the discussion.
The instructor must also examine the rules in place for discussion boards. Telling students that they must post once and reply twice means that you will get little else. Creating more formative discussion boards improves the response. Rather than asking all students to post once and reply twice, consider pairing students to reply to each other. Research states that paired students are able to construct ideas together better than a group. The instructor must still read the posts and make sure everyone is participating.
The rules around discussion boards are often prescriptive and lackluster. Student performance will improve with better interaction.