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effective discussion

Posted By: Andrew Topper on July 15, 2004

I have found the same thing. I think some points need to be assigned for basic levels of participation, but I also think they need to be direclty tied to specific kinds of participation. I post "guidelines for participating in online discussion" that stipulate exactly what I am looking for from my students and I think this helps. What I am trying to nurture are deep, thoughtful discussions of issues related to the course topics and I use journal articles to stimulate these discussions. I have found that contrary to what others are reporting, the online discussions can reach deep and complex levels, with disagreement and reflective comments, and even evidence that the ways in which I position myself related to ideas or issues under discussion are sometimes picked up by students and used in future discussions. I think this might constitute evidence of conceptual learning, something I am working on documenting in publication this summer. I also think we as instructors need to be concious of how our participation in the discussions helps or perhaps hinders student participation. We must be cautious about jumping in too soon, without allowing our students to take up issues themselves, and exerting too much control which can sometimes stiffle discussion. I like the metaphor of scaffolding here, where we perhaps facilitate and direct early discussions but over time, our role diminishes so that students can take up these roles themselves. I think this is an exciting aspect of online courses - seeing students adopt and use ways of thinking we model initially in their own postings to the discussion board. Hope these thoughts are helpful.

andrew topper
Associate Professor, GVSU College of Education
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 Effective discussion boards in online education by Janet Smith on June 24, 2003
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