The following post is part of my MIL research project and is the second of four posts that describe the asynchronous discussion assignments I used in the study: peer review/small group discussion, medium group discussion with very directive guidelines, social bookmarking with Diigo discussions, and multimedia discussion forums.
Successful discussion is all in the discussion prompt and size of the group. It’s pretty much a given that whole class discussion for classes with more than 20 students are not that effective because of the volume of content 20+ students can create, so dividing the class in half or in medium sized (5-10) groups can be beneficial and better for discussion. If students are overwhelmed with the volume of posts to read and respond to, often they opt out completely or try to participate partially. This means that they aren’t reading all the posts and thus not truly participating in the discussion. This is understandable; therefore, it’s best to create a discussion that minimizes the quantity of posts to allow students to be able to thoroughly read and participate in a discussion. Most LMS’s permit instructors to set up multiple discussions and assign students to select ones. If not, instructors can still set up multiple and instruct students as to which they are to participate. A helpful tip here is to set the options to “students must reply before seeing comments.” This prevents students from one group from reading and copying content from other groups they are not members of.
The number of participants in a discussion is not the only factor in its success. The questions or topics you have students discuss also play a factor. Discussion prompts are the written “springboard” from which online discussions are launched and are essential to encourage shared understanding (Du, Zhang, Olinzock, & Adams, 2008). Taking into consideration your purpose for the discussion, let that drive your discussion prompt. “Explicitly described and well-structured prompts support the students to interact and co-construct higher order knowledge” (Pedagogical Repository). For instance, in my ENG102 class, students are writing argumentative essays, so they are learning how to address opposing views and counter arguments in their papers. To help with this process, I have students participate in a discussion where each student is asked to present an argument that supports the thesis of the paper they are writing and briefly explain it to the group. Other students in the group are then instructed to provide a possible opposing view to that argument. Again they are asked to briefly explain the opposing view. And as a follow up each student who posted an original argument must now offer a counter argument to the opposing view that was posted in response to their argument. This gets students thinking about possible opposing view that they may not have thought of, but it also gives them the opportunity to test their counter argument skills. The discussion can end there or students can be instructed to provide feedback on whether they feel the counter argument was effective or whether or not it was presented correctly (accommodate or refute). It becomes a learning opportunity as well as another opportunity for students to provide feedback and connect with one another.
There are many alternatives to the usual whole class discussions that ask students to comment on readings in general. More focused and directive discussion prompts will get a better response from students. In her study, Nancy Bryant stated one of her biggest insights as, “The format and topic of the prompts influenced the amount of internalization for the students, as well as impacting the amount of self-directed research the students were willing to initiate. When the student had some control over their topic and format, their participation and quality of posts increased. The students asked more questions of one another and also generated more quality responses” (Brunsell). Check out the article for more common themes related to asynchronous discussion.
Related Posts: MIL Research Project: Peer Review & Asynchronous Discussion
The following post is part of my MIL research project and is the first of four posts that describe the asynchronous discussion assignments I used in the study: peer review/small group discussion, medium group discussion with very directive guidelines, social bookmarking with Diigo discussions, and multimedia discussion forums.
Most people don’t think of peer reviews of student essays as discussion, and if you stop at the step where students provide feedback to each other on the written work, then yes, there’s not much discussion going on there. But that doesn’t mean you can’t turn peer review into a meaningful asynchronous discussion activity. Here’s how I run peer reviews in my ENG102 class. First I create groups of 3-4 students. Then I set up the questions that I want for students to answer during the peer review process. Giving students specific things to comment on helps them stay focused and makes it easier for them to provide meaningful feedback. The questions usually stem from the rubric that was provided to students during the writing process. My thought is that if students composed their essays under certain guidelines, providing feedback based on those guidelines could be helpful. So for example, the rubric points out that 10 points are awarded for a strong thesis statement that either takes a position or proposes a solution to a problem. During the peer review process, I ask students to review the essays of the students in their group and answer the provided questions. One question instructs students to highlight what they think is the thesis, identify it as either a position or proposal statement, and then weigh in on whether the thesis is a strong thesis or not. During the writing phase, students are tasked with writing a strong thesis, so this feedback they receive from peers is valuable.
Once each student has participated in this phase of the peer review, they are instructed to move over to Piazza for a small group discussion on the peer review process. This discussion is open ended with no specific guidelines about what needs to take place. The instructions simply ask students to continue the discussion from the peer review by providing further commentary on the overall work that each student did for the essay assignment. Comments in this phase of the asynchronous discussion activity are the ones I found most enlightening. Many students took this time to thank their group mates for the valuable feedback they provided in the peer review phase. They express their pleasure in participating in such activity, and showed enthusiasm for helping each other. One group was so exciting to start the discussion phase that they started their own group before the instructor had a chance to set it up.
An additional benefit to a discussion like this is the opportunity to build community among students. If students feel like there are others who are willing to read their paper and provide valuable feedback, they often feel obligated to do the same – provide valuable feedback back. But they also grow to like the people in their group forming a bond that carries over to other activities in the class. I often find groups start to ask questions of each other instead of asking the instructor. This is facilitated if you have a good tool to do so, which is why I adopted Piazza to help with Q&A and discussions in my class. Students don’t feel like they are alone in this process after they’ve completed the first peer review/discussion assignment.
I own a total of four video cameras, but lately I haven’t used any of them. I’ve fallen victim to the old adage, the best camera is the one you have with you. And that camera just happens to be my cell phone. Clearly my other video cameras are better than my cellphone, so it would seem. I have a Canon Rebel T1i that shoots HD video, a Panasonic HDC-SD5 that shoots 1920×1080 HD, a Flip camera (remember those), and a Contour Roam helmet cam that also shoots in full HD. I have all of these great cameras and I can’t even remember the last time I shot video with any of them. Yet everyday, I shoot video and take pictures. Yep, I use my Samsung Galaxy SIII cellphone. It’s my stand alone camera these days. But it can’t be as good as the full HD I can shoot with the others, right? Wrong. It’s awesome.
The Samsung Galaxy S3 cellphone has a 8 megapixel camera that shoots full 1080p HD video. Many cellphones these days do, so you don’t really need to carry around a “real” camcorder anymore unless you are a “real” movie maker. So as proof of concept, I set out on a mission to create a video advertisement for our upcoming technology conference. My goal was to use only my cellphone and a web app to edit the video. No complicated expensive software allowed. I figured if I could make something useful, why couldn’t our students. They all have cellphones and there’s no cost after that. Here’s what I did… Read more
I presented the following presentation at Southeast Community College in Lincoln, NE this week. My slides and notes are posted below.
Title: Student Engagement in a Changing World * Overall Theme: Student Engagement
I. Introduction: This presentation was designed to demonstrate different ways to engage students using a few technology tools along the way. (Animoto video) + Storytelling: Used to be a track coach, busy all the time, quit, realized I was bored with teaching, students were bored and unmotivated, started using tech to mix it up, went back to school, learned how to do it right, better engage students in their own learning. Student engagement is important in what we as teachers do.
“Students learn more when they are actively involved in their education and have opportunities to think about and apply what they are learning in different settings. Through collaborating with others to solve problems or master challenging content, students develop valuable skills that prepare them to deal with the kinds of situations and problems they will encounter in the workplace, the community, and their personal lives.”
Introduce CCSSE study – purpose.
II. CCSSE Data (Poll Everywhere)
2012 CCSSE Executive Summary (PDF) focuses on the importance of relationships among students, faculty, and staff, and with institutions themselves: how they evolve, the value they add, and the importance of building and sustaining these critical connections. The report offers data about the quality of community college students’ educational experiences and describes how colleges across the country are intentionally making connections with students online, in the classroom, on campus, and beyond.
“Personal connections are the unanticipated success factor — a critical variable that improves the odds of persistence.”
The five benchmarks of effective educational practice in community colleges are active and collaborative learning, student effort, academic challenge, student-faculty interaction, and support for learners.
Show key results from active and collaborative learning – Open a poll (“…79% of entering students report that they plan to earn an associate degree, but just _____ of full-time students meet that goal within six years. What percentage met this goal?) Answers: 35%, 45%, 55%, 75% <–PollEverywhere/ View our results and then the CCSSE results for A and C learning.
One more area possibly – Student/Faculty Interaction – another poll question – Transition -relate to student engagement
III. Student Engagement– occurs when “students make a psychological investment in learning. Read more
My project involves establishing a Personal Learning Network (PLN) for myself and faculty on our campus. It involves establishing an online presence and building a community on various social media sites for myself and our CTLE. I will research blogs, organizations and professionals to include in this community, as well as produce content for our blog covering the best pedagogical practices in online teaching. The goal of the PLN is to get faculty “to connect, collaborate and contribute so that we can become aware, connected, empowered, and confident learners.” I will spend time researching and learning about creating a successful PLN and how to get others involved. Attending a national conference, researching and reading will help me produce PLN content and connections.
As an online instructor and eCourses Faculty Lead for my college, the general purpose of my project is to increase my knowledge and the knowledge of our ecourses faculty of the best pedagogical practices in online teaching by establishing a Personal Learning Network (PLN). “Personal Learning Networks are systems that help learners take control of and manage their own learning.” It’s a system of lifelong learning and provides support for learners to manage their learning and to communicate with others in the process of learning. This PLN will be used for professional development and will help myself and other faculty learn from content-area specialists and each other. In order to create this network, I need to improve my skills and knowledge in the process and learn about best practices for creating such networks, as well as learn how to help and motivate others to join the network. The true value of this project is that the learning doesn’t end after the final report is submitted.
My goal Read more
Scottsdale Community College hosted SCC TechTalks 2013, a series of live, 18-minute presentations on how technology has impacted teaching and learning on February 1, 2013. The event followed a similar format to the widely popular TEDTalks and was put on by SCC’s Instructional Strategic Technology Advisory Committee (ISTAC).I was honored to be invited to be one the speakers of this inaugural event and had a great time participating.
Event description: “The thought-provoking talks feature presenters from a variety of professional backgrounds covering an array of subjects — from theater and music to math and science. Presenters include faculty members, tech gurus and students.”
Below is a playlist of all the talks featuring Maricopa’s past and present technology leaders. So go grab some popcorn, get comfy and enjoy the show.
Most students hate online discussion. It’s true. Ask them. I don’t blame them. I hate it too. Ha! Yep, I just admitted that. It’s not the idea behind asynchronous discussion that I dislike. It’s how it is implemented in most online courses. It’s almost as if it’s an after thought. Oh wait, I need some student to student interaction, so I’ll throw a few questions in a discussion forum and be done with it. There’s no clear purpose. Then 24 students all jump in and try to manage what can quickly become unruly or worse boring and meaningless. First, my horror story. How do 24 students “discuss” this question: What was the theme of the story? Yes, I’ve seen that discussion question in an online course. Well, after the first student nails the answer, and it didn’t take long in this case. Everyone waiting 4 days until the one brave soul responded with the correct answer. Done. What was everyone else supposed to say after that? Not much and the discussion was a flop. Twenty-four students echoing the same response. And I’ve seen worse.
There’s a lot that goes into creating successful asynchronous discussion in online courses. I talk a little about some of it in the video at the end of this post. Instead of elaborating on that further, I’d rather share with you a very rewarding asynchronous discussion going on right now in my ENG102 online course. Discussions don’t have to take place in a traditional discussion forum. That’s the first lesson. In this case, my real goal, aside from getting students to interact with each other, was to have students help each other out with their writing by offering some valuable feedback. This discussion begins in Connect Composition where students submit their latest essays. I set up a peer review assignment and put students in groups of 3. Their goal at this stage is to review the other two papers in their group and offer feedback based on the 6 questions I set up for them to answer.
The objective is twofold: Read more
I can’t remember when I first started using SoftChalk, but it seems like it’s been about 10 years. That’s how long the company has been around (since 2002). I’ve been using the tool to help create interactive lessons for my online and hybrid courses. We’ve had it available to us (Maricopa) for quite a while now, but when our current contract expired, we decided we needed to go out for RFP to make sure we were using the best product and paying the best price. I’d never thought much about it until I realized there might be a possibility of having to use something else. But when I express my concerns to my colleagues, all I ever get in response is: “What is SoftChalk?”
Well, that’s part of the problem, not enough faculty know the answer to that question. So the few of us who do know, may suffer the consequences. There will always be a need for an interactive lesson builder, and I vote that we keep what we already know. However, if there is something else out there that will blow me away without causing me stress learning how to use it, I’d be open to that too. In the mean time, here’s hoping others in the district find this video interesting enough to start using Softchalk while we await the verdict.
At GCC we have another option for conducting online peer review assignments in the composition course. I previously posted about the option I use in Connect Composition, but today I want to share with you a 2nd way that a few of our faculty are using. Below is the method that Gary Lawrence uses. I posted previously about his heads up about this process, but this post will give a few more details on how it all works. He even shared a video below that he made for students to show them the peer review process.
It’s not a perfect process, but it works well enough if you don’t have access to Connect Composition. It requires that students have MS Word to be able to “track changes” and leave comments on the documents. There are work arounds for that, but it might further complicate the process. Below is an image Gary created for students to explain the peer review process to them. Read more