Purpose The aim of this paper is to examine the academic performances of first-year accounting students using a discussion board. Design/methodology/approach The paper develops a model to determine the impact of discussion board usage on overall student performance. A number of variables are controlled for including academic aptitude, previous accounting experience, gender and student background. Included in the model are diagnostic information indicators of student use of the discussion board, obtained from the Web-based learning environment tracking reports. Findings The multiple regression analysis shows a positive benefit in terms of greater marks for students who post on the discussion board compared to those who do not post, even after controlling for academic ability. Research limitations/implications The improved knowledge construction gained by actively using discussion boards may be used by teaching staff to promote greater student acceptance and voluntary participation in discussion boards resulting in more interaction and possibly higher academic achievement. Originality/value While technology and WBLEs have been well accepted in accounting education, and are widely used (Watson et al., 2007), the introduction of discussion boards has resulted in a dearth of research on their use and effectiveness. In-depth accounting educational literature reviews (Apostolou et al., 2013, 2010; Watson et al., 2007; Watson et al., 2003; Rebele et al., 1998) have reported very few studies on discussion boards over three decades.