In last night’s webinar on How to Make…

In last night’s webinar on How to Make Discussion Boards Effective Tools, we learned about the importance of setting up protocols and expectations. Another key to having robust discussions was developing questions/topics that promote interaction and not just answers.
I start the semester with a statement in my syllabus that outlines my expectations:

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.

I write discussion topics that promote reflection and opinion.

From Abnormal Psychology:
What is the purpose of Punishment for criminal behavior? The ultimate punishment is captal punishment. Is this really a punishment or is it something else?

Should we punish someone for criminal behavior if they lack the mental capacity to understand the fact that they are being punished? In the made-for-tv movie Dead Man Out, a psychiatrist, played by Danny Glover is hired to evaluate a deathrow inmate to help determine if he is faking “insanity.” This movie was based on a real-life article by a psychiatrist who was asked to do such an evaluation. The problem here is that the law prevents the execution of mentally ill, or at least “insane” individuals. What if the fact of being on deathrow for many years leads to such a condition? It is not unusual for people to be on deathrow for many years. The average is now almost 15 years. Should a mental health professional do such an evaluation? A psychiatrist is bound by oath to provide help to those in need of care. Should such a psychiatrist/psychologist treat a person in those conditions in order to help restore their mental health and “certify” them to be qualified to be executed? If so, does that break their oath to “do no harm” to their patients since doing so will result in their execution?
(The links to the movie information and statistics may not show in the blog)

My role in the Discussion Board has been to keep the discussion on topic and to bring in relevant information from the course material that students do not bring up.

I agree with the webinar presenter that the lifeblood of the online class is student interaction. From the time I began thinking about teaching online in 1999, my only hesitation was this issue. I was always confident in my ability to convey the content of the course via the web. My first experience with online learning was to take an Astronomy class online and it was a wonderful experience with a master instructor. I was convinced that the web and I could unite to provide the student with a wealth of content to provide a viable alternative to the traditional classroom. What I struggled with was how I would translate my own presence in the classroom into the virtual reality of the online environment. Otherwise, what was the point of having a live psychologist teaching the class? What I was struggling with was the question of how to provide “substantive interaction.” In the early days, I resolved this issue by requiring my students to participate in weekly live, online “chats” in which I discussed, gave examples, asked and answered questions, and got to know my students. When the first webinar and discussion board tools began to be available, I immediately became an avid proponent of these innovations.

2 thoughts on “In last night’s webinar on How to Make…

  1. I was sorry that work commitments prevented me from attending the live webinar & look forward to reviewing the archive. But thank you for these thoughts. What you have expressed here speaks to the heart of what I think many of us have difficulties with – how to generate substantive interaction both with our students and between our students. Referring to the COI model, I suspect that many of us feel confident in the cognitive presence domain as we are specialists in our content area and have a good sense of how to engage our students in our discipline. However, the social & teacher presence domains – particularly in a virtual context – are the really tricky areas for me. This is why I too have appreciated the opportunity this course has provided to explore these more challenging aspects of online teaching & learning – human touch, building rapport, making connections…

    I don’t think you mention the specific context of your course [i.e. hybrid or fully OL] so I am curious about whether you use those 5 Discussion guidelines to evaluate your student postings [e.g. are these in a rubric?]. I also wonder about how we can help students take on more responsibility, as opposed to us always having to be the primary drivers of keeping the discussion on track. When I was doing my doctoral studies at the University of Toronto, I had the great fortune of studying with Scardamalia & Bereiter and really liked their concept of Knowledge Building – helping students synthesize the online group discussions using a scaffold [at the time I think it was called a rise-above-it note] to elevate the level of thinking & learning beyond just submitting a series of posts & responses [which I think often happens in discussion forums]. These are just some initial thoughts – hopefully this week I’ll have time to explore more and process.

    • I’m sorry you missed the session and hope you can catch the archived session soon because it was very good

      Thanks for your comments and questions. I’ll admit to ending my post abruptly as I ran out of time.
      I teach undergraduate F2F, online, and hybrid classes. The guidelines I mentioned in my posting were typical for my fully online classes. I have only begun to use rubrics in the past year and only for specific assignments. I have felt that the guidelines I have used were adequate for discussion boards and blogs. However, my “take-away” from the webinar is an enhanced appreciation for the use of rubrics for this purpose. 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.

      You’ll enjoy the webinar. Many of the topics you bring up were discussed.

      Isn’t this fun?


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