Lesson Learned 2: Online Discussion Boards

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

In my last post, we talked about synchronous meetings. One complementary counterpart to synchronous meetings are asynchronous discussion boards. One of my instructors recently had good success with online discussion, which was exciting for me to hear!

If you want to see my video about effective online discussion, have a look. But let me summarize my main ideas here:

Because you can change the settings to allow students to only see others’ posts after they’ve posted, online discussion boards take away the tendency of students to piggy-back off of their peers so much in class. They have accountability, and I like that! I also like that I can see each person’s response, and respond myself.

Three things to make sure of with online discussion:

  1.  Make sure you have “round 1” posting and “round 2” responding/commenting with due dates included in your discussion prompt.
  2. Make your discussion groups small. 5-7 people in each group. Can you imagine how overwhelming it would be as a student to jump into a discussion thread that’s miles long? Small groups allow for more interaction and accountability.
  3. Make clear to your students how they get points for the discussion. Give them a rubric. Give them examples or explanations so they have a model in their mind about what makes a good post and a good response.

These three things will keep your students more engaged with the online discussion posts, and it’ll be nice to mix things up if you’re only using synchronous tools. In part three, I’ll talk about using pre-recorded videos.

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Blog Series: Lessons Learned from COVID

Keep Your Distance Photo

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Online learning. Remote learning. Homeschooling.

These key words may bring pangs of frustration to teachers, parents and students everywhere, now that much of the country has been “learning online” for the past several months. While many will be happy to move back to their traditional in-class procedures, I keep hearing over and over from my instructors things like,

“We want to take what we’ve learned and improve our use of Canvas.”

“This really forced me to look harder and deeper at how to use technology.”

Instructors who use Learning Management Systems regularly for day-to-day teaching, whether in a blended program or not, were much better prepared for the sudden COVID shutdown than their colleagues. But still, those instructors were caught off guard, and as a result COVID produced quick online teaching that neither teacher nor student was fully prepared for. I’m not the only expert who has been saying this.

Over the next few days, I am going to dive into several topics that came to the surface often as my instructors faced “teaching online”. I will address what good things we learned and pitfalls of quick course design.

A little bit of background about myself. My dissertation was about blended and online learning in K-12. After writing a literature review, I analyzed teaching competencies to determine if the wording indicated whether the skill involved technology use or expertise or not (for example, “provides an inviting classroom environment” is not specific enough wording to denote whether the skill is done in an online space or a physical classroom space, and the skill itself is different depending on whether you’re using online tools or in class tools, so some instructors might think they can do this in an online environment if they can do it in-person, and this is not true). In a complementary research project, I scoured the country looking for what higher ed teacher preparation programs were doing to prepare instructors to teach in a blended environment. I helped edit and update the National Standards for Quality Online Teaching that were published last year. And currently, I coordinate blended teaching and LMS administration at a technical college, so I’m thinking a lot about these things every day.

My instructors have no formal training in teaching (as many in higher education do not have, I might add). They are industry professionals who become instructors. And some of them are very hands-on professionals to the point that using technology to help students learn becomes very cumbersome (welders need their machines for practice hours– hands on is where its at!). I will pull some examples from working with instructors but will not use their names or be specific enough that you will know who they are. I respect my colleagues very much for the work they do and do not intend to disparage anyone who is a beginner with using learning management systems and other software.

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