Wednesday, August 15, 2012

My Love/Hate Relationship with Discussion Boards

I love teaching online. I love taking classes online. I love meeting my colleagues and fellow students virtually online. BUT I hate discussion boards! Now not all discussion boards are created equal, but the majority of the discussion board posts I see look like this:
Read the assigned document for this week. Make one post about what you liked/disliked about this reading by Monday, post a response by Wednesday to another student's initial response.
The above to me does nothing but confirm (or try) to the instructor that the student read the article. It does not create community and ends up becoming busy work. So how do we improve discussion board posts? Well, I have a few ideas and suggestions:

Create Debate discussion boards:

In Moodle create a "Choice" activity where students can choose a side. Set-up areas for students on each side to construct their Opening statements (I used Google Docs, but a Wiki could work). Post opening statements to the discussion form, allow for a Q&A period for debate, and then have students work on a closing statement.
Why this works: Debates are great for getting students to see opposing viewpoints, or find evidence to back-up their own ideals. It creates a more dynamic discussion forum and you will (hopefully) never see the words "I agree"!

News & Announcements or Q&A forums:

Use forums as a way for students to ask questions about the class. This can be a great place to start an FAQ for the class. If a student asks you a question offline or in e-mail. Ask them to post it in the Q&A forum. Post all your Announcement in its own forum. In Moodle you can require students to subscribe, which will automatically email all of the students in your class. So when the email gets "lost" they can always go to one place to see changes.

Peer Review or sharing of student work:

One of the issues I have with online classes is that most work in the class is done between a student and an instructor. Discussion forums are one of the few places in a LMS that will allow for students to post files or links that can be shared with the rest of the class.

So traditional discussion forums are not all bad, and in most cases just need a great guided question, but I'll keep doing it just a bit differently!

There are lots of other ways to use discussion boards - how do you use them?

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