What's the Point is a podcast I contributed to @ Classroom Q&A -Bam Radio!
When it comes to creating successful asynchronous discussions, the most important question to ask yourself is, what's the point? In a Bam Radio Podcast, I treat this topic and offer suggestions for educators who are faced with the challenge of facilitating online discussions. Joining me on the podcast is a K-12 educator who adds considerations for special needs populations.
Other musings that can assist with your quest to create bustling hubs of academic discourse are: what's the difference, and what's the big idea? Commentary below to enhance the audio. @Classroom Q&A -Bam Radio.
What’s the point?
It's a common sense question, but one that is frequently overlooked. Ask yourself, why a discussion forum? If the goal is to simply have an assignment due, or enforce attendance, there are better methods.
For attendance, create an activity or fun quiz during a specific timeframe--something easy and light, even comical, to record presence. If the goal is to ascertain whether or not a student read a textbook chapter, watched a recorded lecture, completed his or her homework, a discussion board is the wrong tool. Instead, individual assignments or timed quizzes are better choices.
Closed-ended questions that typically generate similar, if not identical, fact-based responses are ill-fitted for discussion boards. Moreover, most platforms or Learning Management Systems have settings that allow responses to be private, or hidden until all posts are made. Utilize that for fact based assessments.
What's the difference?
In traditional classrooms, instructors tell, students memorize, and finally they demonstrate their knowledge acquisition in some manner (test, paper). Conversely, in problem-based classrooms, instructors present an issue or pose a problem, necessary information and sources are identified to work through the issue, and finally learning is reinforced through application. That is a different methodology that is suited for discussion boards. Here is an example.
Bad discussion question: Explain the causes of World War I
Good discussion question: Choose one cause of World War I and find evidence of its existence in present times.
What's the big idea?
Asynchronous discussion boards can achieve a few goals. They can serve as social platforms, assessments, and forums for the application of content. However, they should not serve as busy work. Simple tweaks in design can make a huge difference and the big idea is to help students view discussion boards as more than a chore. Accordingly, it's necessary to inform students that they cannot be made up --they are not merely tasks for a teacher's eyes, they are asynchronous peer interactions that happen in real-time.
Consistent and effective use of discussion forums can lead to more engaged students.