Each week we meet via Twitter for #IOLchat to discuss current issues related to online learning. Participants have included students, instructors, eLearning companies, schools, publishers, and instructional designers.
Thanks to @colemanmichelle for suggesting this week's topic! Anyone who has either written questions or responded to them in threaded forums knows how challenging online discussions can be. Moving students through higher levels of thinking is the goal, but crafting questions that spark real discussion in asynchronous formats is not easy. Join us to share your thoughts about these forums and tips for writing "good" discussion questions.
What makes a "good" discussion question in an online course?
- Uses concepts found in the course reading assignments; can't be answered effectively without having read the assignments.
- Encourages students to reflect, to think critically.
- Allows students to share their individual experiences.
- Requires more than simply answering a question – involves follow-up and further interaction from participants.
- Includes clear expectations for students about how they should respond and interact with each other. Rubrics can be used to convey these expectations.
- Allows for or requires students to synthesize their learning experiences outside of the discussion forum, including things like reading and real-world scenarios and case studies.
- Encourages participation, both in terms of quality and quantity, that is rewarded with points or feedback.
- Addresses topics that deal less with student opinion and are more about assessing student understanding of concepts.
- Examples are available. Read about what others are doing: What makes a good discussion post?
How can Bloom's Taxonomy be applied to the process of writing online discussion questions? Are there other helpful guidelines?
- Bloom's can be a helpful guide providing lists of verbs for developing specific learning activities.
- These kinds of frameworks can be relied on too heavily. Make them a good place to start.
- Participation can be evaluated based on quality (harder to define) and quantity of posts – rubric resource: Threaded Discussion Rubric focusing on Bloom's Taxonomy [PDF]
When everyone can respond/reply at different times, what constitutes "discussion" in an online threaded forum?
- "It's still a discussion, the difference is time and space." More time and pacing throughout a unit or lesson can lead to deeper engagement from students and instructors.
- The structure of the question can make a difference. Ask students to include specific components: what they are responding to, a presentation of their original view or perspective on the topic, and end with a question.
- Setting parameters for the discussion helps. Examples from participants include: Establish start and end dates with specific expectations for what should take place. Hold one week discussions in which each student must post three original responses and reply to two other student responses. Assign specific days of the week: e.g. initial posts are up by Wednesday and replies by Friday.
- What about replies to replies? "Don't go deeper than replies. It get's cumbersome to track effectively."
How can instructors best facilitate online discussions? Share your favorite strategies!
- Take a look at this advice and list of resources for faculty members from the University of Wisconsin System: Facilitating Online Discussions.
- Provide positive feedback and encourage students to get out there and participate. "Tell them what they do well."
- Help students stay focused on each question topic and post follow-up questions as necessary to help keep the conversation moving forward.
- Challenge your students' assumptions about the topics you are discussing.
- Questions don't have to be "text only." Add links to online resources, video and other multimedia that may be helpful.
- Use each question as a way to evaluate whether or not students are engaged with the course material and concepts.
Any recommendations for new online students participating in their first online discussions?
- Discuss! Don't wait to make your contribution at the last minute. Give other students time to read and respond to your posts, and take the time to provide thoughtful responses to other students during the week, too.
- Jump in: Post as early as you can during each lesson or unit.
- Focus: Make sure each of your posts addresses a single topic. This will make replies easier and help everyone to follow the conversation.
- Look for "friendly online faces:" You'll meet and get to know your classmates through these discussions.
Help us to continue the discussion by adding your thoughts via the comments area on this page.
For more from the most recent live session, take a look at the chat archive or this week's transcript. Follow us @OC_org and plan to attend our next chat! We meet on Wednesdays from 12pm-1pm ET and look forward to hearing your perspective.
This week's read-aheads:
Promoting Durable Knowledge Construction through Online Discussion from Dave S. Knowlton, Crichton College
Bloom's Verbs, Sample Questions, and Potential Activities from AussieSchoolHouse.org
CREST+ Model: Writing Effective Online Discussion Questions from MERLOT's Journal of Online Learning and Teaching
Evaluating or Marking Online Discussion Participation [PDF] from the University of Calgary
Discussion Board Participation Rubric from the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point
More on Online Discussion Experiences from Designing for Learning by Judith V. Boettcher
Dos and Don'ts of Online Class Discussions from Inside Online Learning