Hello,Welcome to the UW-Platteville DistanceLearning Center’s Creating and Facilitating Online Discussions course. Today we will be discussing a variety of subjects related to Online Discussions including:Types of Discussions and Responses at our disposalPlanningExamplesBenefits and Uses ofFacilitationParticipationD2L Implementation
Online discussions follow a basic structure. In the timeline of discussions we have three major steps. First is the Introductory work, this is the part of the discussion where students can but are not limited to: investigating a topic, doing required reading or formulating an opinion. This in an online class is usually information that is included in the Assignment text. Second is the Posting the Initial Comment, this is where the students express their views in a manner that others in the course can review. Many online discussions have this as a required element to receive points in the class as an incentive to stimulate discussion. Once the Initial Comments are posted and students review one another's ideas, the third basic step of the process can begin. Response’s are posts between students that discuss the information that was presented in the Initial Comments. These responses can take many forms some of them being statements of agreement, disagreement or counterpoints.It is important to point out that the Response is not the final component of a discussion, responses can happen many times over, as long as students are continuing a meaningful discussion. Most online discussions only require an Initial Post and one Response.
There are many ways to implement discussions inside of our Online courses. First of which would be as part of a group activity. A trap that a lot of group activities in the online environment can fall into is that it turns into the group members doing separate parts and turning it into the groups leader to compile the results. This is not the intent for a collaboration activity. By including a Discussion component of any group activity, you can ensure student interaction past just turning in one part of the assignment.Incorporating debates and/or practical experience discussions into our courses can help replicate an essential social learning process. Students in online courses can bring a variety of experiences and view points that otherwise would be missed.
The possibilities of what Introductory Work can consist of are only limited by your imagination. One of the most common, especially in higher level courses, is Research based. As the instructor, we can choose from a multitude of options. We can require that research happens from one or more specified sources or we can allow students to find their own sources. Both approaches have advantages and disadvantages, it is up to you to decide what works best for your course.
A response is a post that is created from another individuals post. This is the part of the discussion where our students will be interacting with one another based on what the original posts content contained.Some examples of this are summarizing initial posts, reposting an opinion if the discussion has changed their mind or acknowledging the opposing viewpoints valid arguments.Using a response type that includes a Critique/Peer Review is an excellent method for encouraging interaction, however I must caution that it is important to make sure that it is done in a respectful manner. Some students can take critique or criticism too personally and it may end up in a negative situation rather than a positive learning one.
Now that we have discussed the basic structure and options in online discussions, we can talk about why they are important. A major reason that our online courses can benefit from discussions is that it fills a whole in the learning process. An integral part of class-room based curriculum is the interaction between the students with one another as well as with the instructor.It is incredibly difficult to do this in an online classroom. Mostly due to the fact that communication in an asynchronous environment does not exist naturally. If discussions are not included in a course, the most communication that can happen is emails between individuals or feedback during grading. Discussions allow students and instructors to communicate more openly about topics and help answer one another's questions.
There are many concepts that can be used in online discussions. A few are:Experiential knowledge, every student comes to the course with a unique set of experiences and learning. Individuals can not only learn more about themselves and their current life situation but also learn from the experience that other students have.Reflect on ideas, Reflection helps students clarify concepts and internalize the information-to-knowledge process. Improve critical thinking, online discussions afford students the opportunity to compare, contrast, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate.
One easy way to ensure quality discussions in our course is clear expectations. If an instructor does not specifically state the required amount of effort for the discussion students will post Yes or No, and I agree or disagree. If the minimal amount of content is presented in a discussion during the Response phase, the discussion will not be as rich or extensive if thought provoking responses appear in this phase.Another is choosing a topic carefully. Choosing a topic or concept that has little or no debate within the source information will not elicit differing opinions or critical thinking.An example of this would be creating a discussion question concerning Heliocentrism (the theory that states the earth rotates around a stationary sun) This is a concept that has little or no debate about whether it is valid or not. A discussion question about this would most likely end in all students supporting it with little conversation.Lastly, discussions can be used in conjunction with individual written assignments to encourage more thoughtful writing. Students will be sharing their work among each other and will gain outside perspectives that they might not have otherwise considered.
Anything that can be related to real world application will create a deeper understanding of not only the material but the application as well. An example of this would be pulling a news article and creating a discussion of what problem solving methods could be used to resolve the situation. This discussion would cover a topic that is relevant in our daily lives and would have real world applications. Responses for this particular discussion could be predict the consequences of another students problem solving method. We can see how this could stimulate more discussion than a “Do you Agree or Disagree and Why? or Why not?”.Our intention is to create an informal peer-oriented community that will value the discussions that take place. If we create this situation our discussions will add more value to the course than if they are only being done because they are required.
Another technique to manage the facilitation of online discussions is the amount of participation that is required. Establishing the expected amount or length of postings in a discussion will make sure that we are not overwhelmed by the content inside of a class discussion. In particular having a maximum and/or minimum in place will allow us to capability to manage those students who either post too much and become overbearing or those students who reluctantly participate in discussions.
If we find ourselves struggling with participation in a discussion we have a few things that we can try. First is having consistent due dates for the Initial Comments and Responses. This insures a few things. First, if students have an established due date, they are more likely to turn the materials in on time. Second, having a due date on the Initial Comments allows other students the time to post responses before the allotted time for the discussion of the topic passes.Another technique that we can use is setting clear expectations. Giving an example of an acceptable response or choosing a minimal word count for each Initial Comment and Response will give the students a framework in which to base their discussion.
Online discussions final
Creating and FacilitatingOnline Discussions
Agenda• Discussion Structure• Types of Discussions• Introductory Work Types• Initial Comments• Response Types• Example of Online Discussions• Benefits and Uses of Online Discussions• Strategies for Quality Online Discussions• Facilitation/Participation• Groups• D2L Activity
Discussion Sequence Structure Discussion Timeline Intro Work Post Response(Reading, Research) (Initial comment) (Read and respond to others)
Types of Discussionso Group collaboration and discussiono Group or cumulative projectso Debates, critiqueso Field or practical experienceo Case studies
Introductory Work Types • Research (from single source) • Research (from list of choices) • Research (open – student’s choice) • Observe/interview • Observe/interview and identify similar findings*Research sources could be readings or Websites, or you canprovide a list of topics with actual sources decided by thestudent.
Initial Comments• Relating to: • Personal experience (current work situation) • Current events • Particular educational field• Compare/contrast• Submitted content or Findings
Response Types• Summarizing unconsidered views and perspectives presented by other classmates• Review comments of others, reassess own comment, revise/clarify, resubmit• Critique/Peer Review • Offer suggestions for improvement
Example of Online Discussions Group Project 1 One of the group members will serve as the leader of the discussion. If nobody volunteers, your instructor will appoint the leader. The leader will state a problem that falls within the Unit 2 topics by posting a one- page Problem Statement to the group’s discussion area, as well as the Dropbox. The group members, including the leader, will discuss the problem by posting at least 6 substantive posts distributed over at least 4 days during the week to the group’s discussion area. At the end of the week, the group leader will summarize the findings in a Project Outcome Paper (2 pages in length) and post it to the group’s discussion area, the general Discussions forum, and the Dropbox where your instructor will provide feedback and a grade.In our example, we see some important things:1. Clear Expectations2. Participation by all individuals3. A list of topics to use in the discussionOptional, use of the Dropbox inside of D2L to more effectively give feedback. Thismay not always make sense to do.
Benefits of Online Discussions• Discussions activities are the main point of interaction in online learning• Allow for Social learning, facilitating students in helping one another.• Engage Students in the topic o Introduce opportunities for critical thinking o Most effective technique for Collaboration
Conceptual Uses for Online Discussions • Experiential knowledge • Every student comes to the course with a unique set of experiences and learning. • Reflect on ideas • Reflection helps students clarify concepts and internalize the information-to-knowledge process. • Improve critical thinking • Online discussions, afford us the opportunity to compare, contrast, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate.
Strategies for Quality Discussion • Avoid yes or no answers • Use conflict to elicit critical thinking • Provide clear expectations • Example expectation “Two Responses” • Rubrics • Group participation • Extend individual written assignments
Strategies for Quality Discussion cont…• Choose topics that are relevant to learners • Challenging, real world applications• Use practical, problem-solving activities and examples • It is about how they came to the answer not what the answer is they come to.• Immediate application • Predict future behaviors• Create an informal, peer-oriented community
Discussion Facilitation: Know your Role • Will you participate in the discussions as an equal with the students? • Will you “lurk” but not post, leaving the discussion to the students? • Will you participate only to play devil’s advocate or to interject a new idea or to redirect the conversation? • Do you plan to respond to students individually or to the class as a whole? Whatever role you choose, let students know and then maintain consistency.
Participation Requirements• Will you establish a minimum or maximum number of response postings per student per topic or per week? o This avoids too little or too much posting and can prevent discussion domination by a small number of students. o It also makes the reading manageable for you and the students.
Improving Participation • Consistency • Routine due dates • Original post every Wednesday • Responses no later than Friday • Clear expectations • Acceptable responses • yes or no • Amount of content
Using GroupsIf a class consists of 15 or more students, you maywant to consider creating smaller groups.A suggestion is to limit students to responding toonly 2 other students’ original postings (again, thismay vary depending on the class size and yourwillingness to read).
D2L Follow-Up Activity• What is our discussion question?• What are our outcomes?• What is our structure? • Sources, prior readings• What are our expectations of our students? • How can we ensure participation?