Friday, September 27, 2013

Continuing the Discussion on "Creating Effective OL Discussions"

I finally got to review the Farmakis webinar (Prezi presentation, Video recording) and found these tips really helpful: providing clear protocols/guidelines; using subjective or opinion rich questions; and providing rubrics along with good examples.

As we come to the end of Wk 3: Create Community - Connect Learners with Each Other, I'd like to attempt to bring the topic of OL Discussions back up to the top of the Community Wall, because the general consensus seems to be that discussions are the heart of online teaching but yet quite possibly the most difficult element to implement effectively.

I'd like to start by referencing this discussion thread that Ed initiated a few days ago, first because I want to capture it in my blog, but also because I appreciate what he shared. I was hoping that others might consider contributing some practical examples of how they create, facilitate, and evaluate discussions in their courses.

I've just clipped a couple of the examples from Ed's posts. He mentioned that he likes to create discussion topics that promote reflection & opinion, and sees his role as keeping things on topic and connecting in relevant bits of information from the course material that are not coming up in the discussion. Without seeing the rubrics it is hard to get the full picture, but I was very interested in the criteria that he mentioned here:

"Discussion Boards and Blogs Grading Criteria….
1. Demonstration of understanding of the issues involved in the posted question or material.
2. Response incorporates material and/or concepts from the course in a relevant way.
3. Response makes a meaningful contribution to the discussion.
4. Response takes a personal viewpoint that is supported by evidence, facts, and/or especially information from the course.
5. The quality of the writing of the response is appropriate for a 200-level college course. The response is written in complete sentences and paragraphs with correct spelling and punctuation."

and in a follow up post:

"My plan, as a result of the discussion that came up during the webinar, is to use a rubric to give the students a rubric with the criteria for outstanding, mediocre, and poor discussion board postings.  I would also like to use a short assignment early in the course in which the student is asked to apply the rubric to one of their own postings to the discussion board. I think this assignment can increase the quality of the postings and:

1. Help to confirm their familiarity with the rubric.
2. Reduce the amount of intervention necessary to keep the discussion on topic and appropriate by including references to this in the rubric.
3. Allow me to focus my postings and replies on reinforcement, encouragement, scaffolding around the more difficult concepts and principles, and asking additional questions. "

I really like this idea of students self-evaluating their postings. Maybe as a precursor to this, as part of an orientation to the discussion boards, it might also help to demonstrate application of the rubric to some random posting example? This demonstration could even be created using screencasting and included in the reference materials?

Personally, I do not have a lot of experience with creating rich online interactions so Ed I hope you, and others, will continue to share your knowledge and insights. I am always looking for rich examples, and so in that spirit I'll end with a couple of resources I found:

A great example of a discussion assignment from from Garrison & Vaughn (2008) Blended Learning in Higher Education: Framework, Principles, & Guidelines

A resource from Edutopia Mastering Online Discussion Board Facilitation which I thought provided some good insights and tips, including this one here for icebreakers


  1. Really appreciate your thoughts and the resources you've posted on creating effective OL discussions, Anita, and will get back to you next week with some examples of what I get my students to do in the Professional English blended learning courses I teach. Have a nice weekend! Veronica

  2. Hi Anita,

    A very well developed follow up on Dr. Farmakis' webinar. I appreciate the fact that you posted some examples. I think I will start doing the same thing because then others can help you polish those questions. Now that I see your examples, it occurred to me that maybe asking my students watch a video and then ask questions about what they saw and ask them to mention other examples they may have encountered before could be a good start to a discussion thread.

    Thank you for the post.