Tuesday, October 15, 2013


Using Discussions

Discussions allow students to collaborate with one another and you! It is a great way to get your students participating in class discussion. You can create discussion topics and require students to respond to them. You can also have students read and respond to their fellow classmates’ responses.  In addition to allowing students an outlet for class participation, according to a 2007 study, discussions can help online students to feel less alone, and like they are part of a learning community where the learners support one another. (Vesely, Bloom, Sherlock, 2007)   Vesley, Bloom, and Sherlock also found that “Having sufficient time for discussion and interaction was an important factor for building a community in online courses.” (Vesley et al., 2007)

What are some examples of different types of discussion prompts?

There are many different ways to utilize the discussion board tool. Listed below are some examples of various types of prompts you can use.
  • Icebreaker Discussion:  Have students reply to an introductory discussion topic during the first week of class. This response can include things like: introducing themselves to the class, explain why they are taking the course, what they hope to get out of the course, something interesting about themselves, etc.
  •  General Questions: It is a good idea to have a discussion topic that can be used for any questions students might have throughout the term.  Giving students a designated place to post their questions can also allow other students, who know the answer to reply as well.  
  • Specific Topics: Requiring students to make a discussion post that is related to the topic at hand, can help them to learn the content better. It will give them an opportunity to discuss their knowledge of the topic, and be exposed to new thoughts and ideas about the topic, when reading other students’ posts.

Helpful Tips:
·         Know the difference between Discussion Forums and Discussion Topics
  • A Forum can be thought of as a “folder” or “category”.  A Discussion Forum is used to organize your individual topics. For example, you might have a forum titled “Chapter 1”, in which all discussion topics that are related to chapter 1 would be located.
  • A Topic is the actual prompt that students will respond to. You might ask students to reflect on a video, answer application questions from a chapter, or discuss how their own experiences can be related to a certain topic. You might have two or three prompts you want students to respond to, that all relate to the same category. All of those topics would be placed together in the same forum. 
  • Require students to respond to 1 or 2 other student postings: This will give students an opportunity to further discuss the topic, and be exposed to new ideas they may not have considered before.\
    • In the 2007 study that was mentioned previously, it was found that 11% of students and 21% of instructors from the study perceived that building a community online was easier than in a face to face course for various reasons. Including “Online courses provide an environment in which students can be themselves, can learn by reading other student’s postings, and an environment in which 1-2 students do not dominate discussions as can occur in some face-to-face courses.” (Vesley et al., 2007)
  • Participate in the discussions yourself: It is important to make sure you give feedback and direct student discussion. You should read the students’ postings and try to respond to every student, at least once throughout the term. (You do not need to respond to every student during every topic.) You should offer guidance to help students stay on track with the topic, and thought provoking questions that will help students to dive deeper into their discussion with one another.  

    • “Students contend that instructor presence is a key factor in online learning and online community. In online classes, instructors can generate a sense of “presence” through their actions in the online environment. Students in this study indicate a need to be heard by their instructors through consistent feedback, responses to postings and responsiveness to concerns. One of the key means by which instructors establish presence in the online classroom is via their ongoing interactions” (Vesley et al., 2007).
  • When it comes time to grade your students’ discussion postings, there is an easy way to see all posts made by one student. This will help you determine if they have really contributed to an ongoing discussion, and determine if they have met the requirement of responding to 1 or 2 other student posts.

o   After you have navigated to the Enter Grades area, and are ready to begin grading your discussion posts, you will want to select the dropdown menu next to the discussion post you are grading, and select Grade All.  

o   Scroll to the bottom of the page to see all of your enrolled students. Choose the “speech bubble” icon, listed under Submission, next to the student you wish to view all posts from.  

o   A pop-up window will appear, showing you all of that student’s posts located in the topic you are grading. (Note: You will ONLY see posts that are in the topic you have selected to grade) 

Vesley, P., Bloom L., & Sherlock J., (2007). Key Elements of Building Online Community: Comparing Faculty and Student Perceptions. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, Vol. 3, No.3 Retrieved from http://jolt.merlot.org/vol3no3/vesely.htm

1 comment:

L. Kryzak said...

Thank you! What a great resource...