Friday, March 11, 2011

12. Strategies for Discussion Postings and Written Collaborations Online

Strategies for Enhancing Students Interactivity in an Online Environment

Vance A. Durrington, Amy Berryhill, and Jeanne Swafford, 2006

College Teaching, Vol. 54/No. 1. Pages 190 - 193

This article does contain very practical tips specifically addressing the written asynchronous interactions that are used in online learning programs between instructors and students and students and students.

Although at times seeming a bit too precise and direct in its suggested approaches, the ideas contained in the article have very useful applications, if considered within additional contexts and factors in delivering online programs for ESL learners.

Highlights include:

  • Online learning presents challenges at different levels - it also provides new opportunities and possibilities. As long as instructors provide appropriate instructional tasks, timely and individualized feedback (presence) and students levels of interactivity remain high.
  • Administrators are often concerned with the quality of online courses and students' learning experiences (p. 190)
  • The learning environment must remain open, supportive and respectful. These are challenges that are not only and solely entirely met by technologies. The instructor is key to implementing these effectively.
Consider the following list as a set of practical tips (ideas, questions and additional suggestions are included in brackets)

  1. use clear instructions for the get go
  2. create a discussion space for frequently asked questions and use it especially during the first week of classes
  3. inform students of approximate average time within which they can expect responses to their questions - acknowledge receipt of questions if you need to take more time to respond
  4. use informal tone in message - (however consider cultural expectations and implications of using humour and the possibility that communication may be misinterpreted)
  5. establish guidelines for discussion postings - use rubrics that are clear and promote active participation
  6. use problem-based learning approaches (the Wicked Problem question seems to be happening over and over again)

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