I think this is a reflection on what was done for the VoiceThread moderation:
Voice Thread moderation
How do you help students interact effectively in an online course?
A few of us have posted examples of how we help students interact effectively in our discussion areas. Although Chris has not held online discussions with students, she likes the small group approach. In addition she likes the idea of having students be facilitators. Bret confirms the importance of using multimedia and unique opportunities to engage a discussion. James also likes the idea of having student facilitators and freshness to the content, but cautions against overwhelming the students with too many new ideas or tools to learn. Sarah points out facilitator involvement is crucial, yet the facilitator needs to be careful to not become the discussion. Let the students be the discussion by finding a balance between facilitator input and student contributions. Earl stresses modeling effective communication so novice participants experience what they are expected to do in the discussion. So far our discussion has focused on group size, discussion format or setting, facilitator involvement that may involve student facilitators, and modeling what we expect of the participants. What other suggestions do you have about how to get students to interact in a discussion forum or even with wiki collaborations? We have a few more days left for this discussion, so please provide examples from your classroom, experiences with online learning, ideas from the readings, or unique perspectives you’ve acquired while in this or other online classes. What has motivated you to interact in our online courses?
How do you sustain online discussions?
A few people have shared aspects of online discussions including how the discussion is launched, what happens during the discussion, and how to prolong it. Kathryn stresses the importance of using open-ended questions to allow for freedom of expression of ideas. Bret cautions instructors to not assume that an open-ended question will guarantee student participation that stays focused on the topic. How would you build community building into the online discussion that may be more natural to create in a face to face environment? Sarah seeks the perfect balance between structure and flexibility. What suggestions do you have about how to create flexibility while still giving enough structure so students feel safe in the environment? Earl suggests extending discussions with hypothetical situations. With that in mind, what do you suggest we do to get people who have not posted to this discussion yet, to post to the discussion? Do the facilitators send out personal invitations to the discussion? Do we respect that for this discussion we are graduate students and therefore have the choice to participate or not? If you are working with adults like we are, but who may not be as comfortable with the online world as we are, how would you lure them to volunteer their ideas in an online discussion?
How do you keep a presence in online discussions without taking over the conversations?
So far, everybody recognizes the importance of having the facilitator being a part of the discussion. Kathryn points out that creating a social presence by providing feedback to participants. James suggests instructors target the posts that are not getting many responses by replying directly to those ideas in an attempt to stimulate discussion based on what is said in the neglected posts. Sarah’s audio file was not loading at the time I crafted this summary. Jessica recommends brevity while including leading questions to further the discussion. How do you suggest a facilitator follows these recommendations without overwhelming the discussion? How does one provide feedback, but not so much that it curtails further discussion?
How do you use online discussion in your blended courses?
So far we have heard a few ways people can use online discussion areas to allow for collaboration or submission of individualized perspectives on a topic. Glori has her students do mini-case studies by perusing the literature and deciding what they would incorporate into their own practice. Adam does a sort of jigsaw where he posts questions about themes in geography and allows students to self-select which ones they will respond to. Then he challenges students to visit a different theme and contribute to its thread. Bret confirms the uniqueness of using discussion forums as a review area for essay exams. He commends Adam for using the discussion area to stimulate student interactions and follows up with questions about procedures for doing such discussions. Kathryn suggested using the discussion areas as a place to do summarizing activities or for students to provide feedback on the course without having time constraints you can have in the face to face classroom. Sarah not only uses discussion areas as a place for students to brainstorm, but since it is out in the open, she can also give feedback and approve their ideas before students prematurely commit to a topic that may not be as fruitful as originally anticipated. What are some other concrete examples of ways you can engage students in an online forum?