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News: Talk online about your experiences as an adjunct, visiting assistant professor, postdoc, or other contract faculty member.
 
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Author Topic: What is a discussion?  (Read 11895 times)
veleda
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« on: January 11, 2012, 12:22:16 AM »

Help! I just found out today that I will be teaching an online class for the first time, and it starts next week so I'm feverishly reading every post on this board tonight! I have zero idea of what I'm doing, but I  taught this class f2f last year, so I can at least start by creating modules and posting the ppt lectures I used previously. This class also has a lab, which will be taught by someone else, in person once a week. I'm just responsible for the "lectures".

I am embarrassed to say, though, that I'm stymied about the discussion thing. I think I just don't really know what a discussion is and what you all mean when you talk about giving students 3-5 questions. Can you give me an example?

This feels insane. Can I do this?? Tell me I can do this...

V.
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helpful
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« Reply #1 on: January 11, 2012, 12:47:44 AM »

You are seriously asking this question? You don't know how to lead a discussion online?
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veleda
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« Reply #2 on: January 11, 2012, 1:37:57 AM »

helpful, it's well past midnight, I'm fried, and I probably posted prematurely, but yes...I'm seriously asking this question. I've never taken or taught an online class.

Just found this though, (Keys to Facilitating Successful Online Discussions by Donna Raleigh), which is what I was looking for, so maybe I answered my own question. Maybe other newbies will find it informative:

Application ideas for online discussions

    Case scenarios. Students can be divided into small groups or work in large groups to respond to cases that help them apply theories and concepts presented in class or in readings.
    Brainstorming. As a pre-class or post-class activity, students can use the online discussion format to brainstorm ideas on a topic.
    Role-playing. In small groups, students can each assume roles and develop scenarios around course content.
    Reaction postings. Students can react to posted readings, assigned readings, or web sites. Also, discussion questions related to the course textbook can provide the basis for discussion.
    Expand course content. Students may read different articles and post summaries or find appropriate web resources and post links. Students may react to each otherís postings.
    Extend in-class discussions. Itís frustrating to cut off a really good discussion at the end of class. Online discussions can quickly be established to allow conversations to flourish outside of class time.


Any other thoughts would be appreciated.

V.
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helpful
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« Reply #3 on: January 11, 2012, 9:09:28 AM »

Thanks. A discussion on-line is the same as in a face to face class. You ask questions and they discuss. Or you can also use the facility on-line has to set up groups to have separate discussions.
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neutralname
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« Reply #4 on: January 11, 2012, 9:26:04 AM »

If you have been thrown into online teaching with short notice, it will be a struggle.  Online teaching takes more preparation than regular teaching, and it takes more work from the students.

Basically, you have to find ways for students to learn and to show that they have learned.  Different sorts of discussion work well depending on the topic, the skills and info you want them to learn, and the preparedness of the students.  You need a system of incentives and penalties to get them to learn. 

My main advice would be to make things flexible for yourself, so you can change your methods according to how it is going.  Warn students that course requirements may have to change if you see they are not learning well. 

Be prepared for a higher drop/withdrawal/failure rate than you get for regular classes.  Some students sign up for an online course with unrealistic hopes and expectations, and they soon crash. 
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mikepiero
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« Reply #5 on: January 12, 2012, 1:42:01 AM »

I use the discussion boards in Blackboard for a lot of different things (abstracts, peer reviews, personal introductions, etc.), but most of the discussions for my composition courses involve the students responding in a post with a min. of 300 words to one of the readings for that week. Sometimes I specify the reading, and sometimes I also ask them to respond to a particular aspect of the reading. Then, I have each student respond to 2 of their classmate's readings. So, the original post is due online on Thursday night by 11 p.m. and then the responses are due by Sunday at 11 p.m.

I make everything due at the same time of night, which helps simplify things for them (and me), I think.

Try to work ahead as much as you can with building the course. I know you don't have a lot of time before classes start, but keep working at it to get ahead. It can be easy to get behind, especially if you have lots of time-consuming grading, so having some of your course built a few weeks ahead of time can really help avoid some last minute meltdowns!

Best of luck!
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Adjunct at Cuyahoga Community College and John Carroll University
veleda
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« Reply #6 on: January 12, 2012, 2:48:05 PM »

Thanks, neutralname and mikepiero. I appreciate the encouragement and details on some of the mechanics. I've spent more time online looking at a few examples of syllabi and other details, and feel like I'm starting to get a handle on things a bit. This is an applied clinical skills class with online lectures and a f2f lab so I've decided to include a scaffolded case study project , and will focus the online discussions on that. It's starting to come together...

V.
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proftowanda
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« Reply #7 on: January 15, 2012, 3:44:41 PM »

Do determine ahead of time whether and how much good writing will matter in your discussions -- spelling, grammar, punctuation, syntax, etc.   This is a difference from f2f discussion.  Would I correct students' grammar in classroom discussion?  Probably not.  So some colleagues in other fields on my campus do not put as much onus on good writing in online discussion.

However, I make it matter -- not as much as content of their assignments, but communication of content matters, or we may not be able to figure out what a student is attempting to say (or the act of translating slows down discussion).   I also find that students can become quite confused if writing doesn't matter in some assignments but does matter in others, such as research papers in the same course.  

In this, as in all things, important work to do ahead of time is to anticipate and address potential sources of confusion as much as you can.  We all do this in our syllabi for classroom courses, but more pages in syllabi (or separate "handouts") may be needed for online courses to communicate expectations.  And communication is the key, not just writing, for us as well.  That is, what we write may not be what they understand, and we don't have those puzzled faces in front of us to tell us so, so that we can clarify our expectations right away.

It can be useful to have a student read your syllabus and "handouts" and rubrics and the like and tell you what the students thinks that you mean, for you to then edit for more clarity.  I put my progeny to use this way, when they were in college, and they still are close enough to those years to do so for me, but you may have a niece or nephew or neighbor or former student who could "focus group" (from my former field) this for you.

Also, do spend time scouring through this "Online Teaching" subthread for previous posts.  I took several workshops on my campus for online teaching in preparation for my first course, and I taught online several times before finding the fora, yet I still found many useful ideas, large and less so, here.  Enjoy!

« Last Edit: January 15, 2012, 3:45:51 PM by proftowanda » Logged

"Face it, girls.  I'm older, and I have more insurance."     -- Towanda!
veleda
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« Reply #8 on: January 16, 2012, 5:42:20 PM »

Proftowanda, thanks. I hadn't thought about the issue of expectations around writing - thanks for the reminder. I sent out a welcome email and posted a few announcements on the site, and got a flurry of emails in return, so I'm already realizing that things need to be spelled out much more clearly for online students. I already miss those puzzled faces!
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