She came up with a great analogy in Faculty Focus about how to lead an online discussion forum as if you were the host of a dinner party. If you haven't seen it yet, I encourage you to give it a gander. I think it's useful for any instructor using online discussion forums as part of his or her courses.
I had a few other thoughts for Cheryl too, which I left for her in a comment. So while you're over there reading her dinner party analogy, scroll down for the rest of my reaction.
Much of Cheryl's core approach to running online discussion forums aligns with our own beliefs as well. We've documented our processes and best practices in our Online Discussion Forum Guideline. It centers around creating a way to provide our students with the best possible online discussion forum learning experience, while keeping this task manageable for our instructors from a time and resource perspective.
Feel free to give our Online Discussion Forum Guideline a read if you're looking for some new ideas for your online discussion approach.
What are your thoughts on how to effectively use online discussion forums to improve student learning? What ideas would you add here?