Designing Effective Online Discussions  Bob Loser  [email_address] Kim Monti  [email_address]
Why Online Discussion? <ul><li>Online discussion is an ideal medium for communities of inquiry – the hallmark of higher ed...
Session Goals <ul><li>You will be better able to: </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Make the best use of discussions  </li></ul></...
1 - Purpose Principle <ul><li>Use discussion for critical thinking beyond basic course content </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What ...
Your Purpose Examples <ul><li>What thinking skills do you want students to develop? </li></ul><ul><li>Tell us: </li></ul><...
2 - Engagement Principle <ul><li>Assign interesting questions or challenging problems that are authentic and universal </l...
Your Engagement Examples <ul><li>Beckoning questions  </li></ul><ul><li>Current controversies </li></ul><ul><li>Real life ...
3 - Structure Principle <ul><li>Shape the interaction with clear requirements for content and process </li></ul><ul><ul><l...
Your Structure Examples <ul><li>What’s the desired thinking skill? </li></ul><ul><li>What’s the best kind of interaction f...
Summary <ul><ul><ul><li>  Purpose:  Use discussion for critical thinking beyond basic course content </li></ul></ul></ul><...
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Designing Effective Online Discussion

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  • Welcome. My name is _________, and my colleague is _______________. We are both instructional designers with NOVA’s Extended Learning Institute.
  • Our topic is online discussion (asynchronous discussion forums like those in Blackboard). Distance learning theorists argue that online discussion forums are ideally suited for promoting critical thinking. They allow opportunity for interaction, and time for reflection between responses (that often isn’t available during classroom discussion). They suggest that this combination of interaction with reflection is at the heart of what we are trying to accomplish in higher education. The implication is that online discussions can be useful in many modes of education: distance, hybrid, or technology-enhanced classroom learning.
  • Our intention for this session is to describe what we think are the best uses of discussion, suggest ways to make sure students are engaged, and describe the kinds of direction we think students need. We will present three simple principles, and, using one or more of your courses as examples, apply these principles as a group and design some effective discussions during the session. We want this session to be interactive, so feel free to ask questions and contribute ideas.
  • The first principle is to use discussion to teach for higher-order learning. One of the most frequent mistakes we see is asking students to just recite or explain what they have read. Although it’s important for students to clarify their understanding and practice recall, it becomes repetitious and boring if that’s all they are asked to do. Instead, ask students to apply, analyze, evaluate, and extend what they are learning. In addition to providing critical thinking practice, it will also help them understand and recall what they are learning.
  • Now let’s apply this principle to your subject. Think about your discipline and the kinds of thinking you want your students to develop. Then tell us an important topic in your course. (Make a table on the board, if available, for application of all three principles to each course. If board not available, create a separate newsprint page for each course, and leave room on the pages to apply each principle to each course.)
  • The second principle is to engage students by picking intriguing questions or problems that students will be interested in naturally. Think about the aspects of your topic that would interest any human being. Challenge your students. Avoid the mistake of saying to yourself “these are beginners; they don’t know enough yet to discuss this.” Even if their ideas wouldn’t satisfy experts, it will help them grow as critical thinkers, and it may motivate them to learn more about the topic.
  • Let’s apply the engagement principle to the important topics you listed earlier. (Take them one by one.) What about this topic would everybody else in this room find interesting? (Clarify, enhance if necessary, and record ideas.)
  • The third principle is to shape the discussion so that students practice the desired thinking skills. Think about the kind of thinking skills you want, and the kind of interaction that will produce and enhance it. Do you want problem-solving? If so, you might want teams with each member contributing ideas or skills from a unique background. Do you want logical argument? If so, you might want a debate. Do you want evaluation? If so, you might consider peer critique. Once you know what kind of interaction you want, what requirements will you give students to force that kind of interaction? Don’t be overly worried about too much structure. An online discussion is not spontaneous like a classroom discussion, so you won’t be killing spontaneity. The strength of online discussion is reflective discourse. The more you help students know what kind of reflection you want them to do in both their initial posts and their replies, the more likely it is that you will get the kind of thinking you are aiming for.
  • Let’s take a look at our possible discussion activities again. Referring back to the desired thinking skills, what’s the best interaction? What requirements for initial posts and replies will generate that kind of interaction? (Clarify, enhance, and record interactions and post requirements.)
  • You have done a great job of applying these three principles. We hope that we have empowered you to design or re-design the other discussion forums in your course in the same way. In your handout, you will find many other examples of discussion designs and directions, as well as a full list of references for additional reading. Thank you for attending today.
  • Designing Effective Online Discussion

    1. 1. Designing Effective Online Discussions Bob Loser [email_address] Kim Monti [email_address]
    2. 2. Why Online Discussion? <ul><li>Online discussion is an ideal medium for communities of inquiry – the hallmark of higher education – because it supports both the reflection and collaboration needed for higher-order learning. </li></ul><ul><li>Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., Archer, W. (2001). Critical Thinking, Cognitive Presence, and Computer Conferencing in Distance Education. American Journal of Distance Education, 15 (1), 7-23. </li></ul>
    3. 3. Session Goals <ul><li>You will be better able to: </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Make the best use of discussions </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Engage your students in discussions </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Structure discussions for highest quality </li></ul></ul></ul>
    4. 4. 1 - Purpose Principle <ul><li>Use discussion for critical thinking beyond basic course content </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What thinking skills do you want students to develop? </li></ul></ul>
    5. 5. Your Purpose Examples <ul><li>What thinking skills do you want students to develop? </li></ul><ul><li>Tell us: </li></ul><ul><li>Your course subject </li></ul><ul><li>Thinking skills desired </li></ul><ul><li>An important course topic for which students can use these thinking skills </li></ul>
    6. 6. 2 - Engagement Principle <ul><li>Assign interesting questions or challenging problems that are authentic and universal </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Beckoning questions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Current controversies </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Real life problems </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Shared desires and concerns </li></ul></ul>
    7. 7. Your Engagement Examples <ul><li>Beckoning questions </li></ul><ul><li>Current controversies </li></ul><ul><li>Real life problems </li></ul><ul><li>Shared desires and concerns </li></ul><ul><li>How can each of your important topics be made engaging? </li></ul>
    8. 8. 3 - Structure Principle <ul><li>Shape the interaction with clear requirements for content and process </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What’s the desired thinking skill? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What’s the best kind of interaction for the goal? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What requirements will produce that interaction? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What facilitation by me will best support that interaction? </li></ul></ul>
    9. 9. Your Structure Examples <ul><li>What’s the desired thinking skill? </li></ul><ul><li>What’s the best kind of interaction for the goal? </li></ul><ul><li>What requirements will produce that interaction? </li></ul><ul><li>What facilitation by me will best support that interaction? </li></ul><ul><li>Tell us: </li></ul><ul><li>Type of interaction </li></ul><ul><li>Requirements for initial posts and replies </li></ul>
    10. 10. Summary <ul><ul><ul><li> Purpose: Use discussion for critical thinking beyond basic course content </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Engagement: Assign interesting questions or challenging problems that are authentic and universal </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Structure: Shape the interaction with clear requirements for conten t and process </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul>

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