LTSE Teaching Online Online Communication Facilitating Positive Discussion Board Interactions

Facilitating Positive Discussion Board Interactions

Meaningful and productive online discussions are an effective approach for cultivating students’ learning through ‘joint construction of knowledge’ (Delahunty, Jones & Verenikina, 2014).

Online discussions enable students time to reflect and develop more complex responses compared to face-to-face discussions (Brace-Govan, 2003; Guiller, Durndell & Ross, 2008).  For this learning and knowledge to be developed, the online discussion activities need to be planned and based on sound pedagogical strategies. Verenikina et al (2017) suggest four interrelated components that are essential to designing and facilitating online discussions:

Planning and designing asynchronous discussion

Outcome orientated task design

  • Consider the intention of the discussion board
  • Task is clearly aligned to task/subject learning outcomes (make this explicit)
  • Task is engaging, meaningful and motivating for students (authentic; case studies; a focus on problem solving; controversial topic; reflection).

Explicit communication strategies

  • Establish a positive social space
  • Academic online communication strategies are explicitly taught and modelled by teaching staff
  • Provide examples of appropriate (and inappropriate) language choices
  • Acknowledge participants; use their name and comment on something they have posted; re-state, extend, present alternatives, justify your position.

Interactions scaffolded by teaching staff

  • Make sure you have a regular presence in the discussion boards; scaffold and steer the discussion (remember learning outcomes)
  • The prompt matters: open questions will lead to better responses - think about incorporating videos, pictures etc rather than just text-based interactions
  • Group size may be important depending on the activity - consider how you will interact in a time efficient manner
  • Monitor engagement using analytics and follow-up with non-participants

Participation expectations are communicated

  • Clearly articulate your expectations and students' participation requirements
  • It is important that students understand how their participation in discussions will be evaluated
  • What is your specific evaluation criteria? Do they need to post a certain number of times? How often? Should they include additional information or references? Genre?

Examples

First year education subject

Planning and designing asynchronous discussion

What learning outcome/s are aligned to this asynchronous discussion?

  • Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of theories and concepts informing teaching and learning

How is the asynchronous discussion linked to the learning outcome/s?

The task is linked to the learning outcomes because the task requires students to provide a description of the qualities they believe are needed for an ideal teacher which contributes to their understanding of concepts informing teaching and learning.

What is the issue, problem or controversy students are interacting with?

As a starting point for understanding the teaching profession, students need to consider how a teacher’s teaching and underpinning values play out in the classroom.Students need to engage with the QLD College of Teacher’s booklet provided and reflect on the attributes they believe contribute to the ‘ideal teacher’.

When do you anticipate you will need to steer students’ discussions?

In their discussion I expect the students to address the following concepts:

  • Personal and professional attributes and qualities of an ideal teacher
  • Communication, teamwork, nurturing, approachable, flexibility aspects are discussed
  • Links to QLD Teacher guidelines (e.g. ethical practice) may be discussed

If students do not touch upon these points in their discussion I would prompt them by questioning and providing an example (interactional scaffolding).

What communicative strategies do you want students to focus on?

In this discussion board activity, students are explicitly asked to use the following strategies:

  • Reflecting upon and justifying their learnings
  • Presenting alternatives/enrichment practices

Language choices are provided for each strategy. Additionally, students are reminded to use the ‘positive social interaction’ strategies which they used in the introductory discussion board, including ‘ addressing by name’, ‘acknowledging’ and ‘supporting others’ ideas

What explicit instructions will you provide for student participation?

As outlined in the subject outline and in the task description on the Ultra discussion board, students are advised that participation in the discussion board activity is compulsory and graded. Students are required to post their own response to the discussion board. Then read and comment on at least one other student’s post. Students can comment on any similarities or differences between their posts.

How are you planning to interact in the discussions?

My participation in the discussion board will include:

  • Ensuring my Ultra Global   Notifications Settings are set to alert me to new discussion board entries
  • Reading all posts and   acknowledging students’ contributions
  • Identifying moments when   students need clarification or prompts to achieve the learning outcomes
  • Monitoring students’ engagement   and following up with non-engaged students
  • Where students have not   received any contributions from other students, add a commentary so these   students feel included
  • Model the communicative   strategies in my posts

Master of rehabilitation subject

Planning and designing asynchronous discussion

What learning outcome/s are aligned to this asynchronous discussion?

  • critically appraise the evidence for the diagnosis, management and evaluation of dysphagia in acquired and developmental clients at an advanced level
  • effectively communicate at an advanced level about complex cases with peers

How is the asynchronous discussion linked to the learning outcome/s?

The task is linked to the learning outcomes because the task requires students to provide a commentary and reflection on how the new knowledge they acquired through reading and appraising journal articles related to a condition of their choice (e.g. Parkinson’s Disease, Down Syndrome, Myasthenia Gravis) could inform or enrich their practice and provide a rationale for their reasoning.

What is the issue, problem or controversy students are interacting with?

The students will need to critically appraise evidence and will need to provide a rationale/argument for their commentary on their learning.

When do you anticipate you will need to steer students’ discussions?

In their discussion I expect the students to address the following concepts:

  • Critical appraisal of evidence – discussion related to strengths and weaknesses of literature evidence
  • Evidence related to dysphagia management for some conditions may be limited or poor – reasons for this paucity of evidence
  • Reflection on student’s learning including new knowledge acquired, controversial or unclear learning, areas for future growth etc.

If students do not touch upon these points in their discussion I would prompt them by questioning and providing an example (interactional scaffolding).

What communicative strategies do you want students to focus on?

In this discussion board activity, students are explicitly asked to use the following strategies:

  • Reflecting upon and justifying their learnings
  • Presenting alternatives/enrichment practices

Language choices are provided for each strategy. Additionally, students are reminded to use the ‘positive social interaction’ strategies which they used in the introductory discussion board, including ‘addressing by name’, ‘acknowledging’ and ‘supporting others’ ideas

What explicit instructions will you provide for student participation?

As outlined in the subject outline and in the task description on the Ultra discussion board, students are advised that participation in the discussion board activity is compulsory and graded. Students are required to provide their own commentary then provide contributions to at least one other student’s commentary. Comments on another student’s commentary should include the provision of alternatives, support, reflections, resources or similar. The contributions may be in any Ultra supported format including written, video or audio.

How are you planning to interact in the discussions?

My participation in the discussion board will include:

  • Ensuring my Ultra Global Notifications Settings are set to alert me to new discussion board entries
  • Reading all posts and acknowledging students’ contributions
  • Identifying moments when students need clarification or prompts to achieve the learning outcomes
  • Monitoring students’ engagement and following up with non-engaged students
  • Where students have not received any contributions from other students, add a commentary so these students feel included
  • Model the communicative strategies in my posts

→ Download template 'Planning and designing asynchronous discussion' (DOCX, 175 KB)

References

  • Brace-Govan, J. (2003). A method to track discussion forum activity: The Moderators’ Assessment Matrix. Internet and Higher Education, 6(4), 303–325
  • Delahunty, J., Jones, P. & Verenikina, I. (2014). Movers and Shapers: teaching in online environments. Linguistics and Education. 28(4), 54-78.
  • Guiller, J., Durndell, A. & Ross, A. (2008). “Peer interaction and critical thinking: Face-to-face or online discussion?” Learning and Instruction, 18(2), 187-200.
  • Salmon, G. (2002). A pedagogical model for e-learning: “The five-stage model of online learning”. Retrieved from https://itlc.science.ku.dk/english/papers/model
  • Verenikina, I., Jones, P. T. & Delahunty, J. (2017). The Guide to Fostering Asynchronous Online Discussion in Higher Education. Retrieved from: http://fold.org.au/docs/TheGuide_Final.pdf.