How do you engage with your online students? How do your students engage with one another? Online discussions afford many opportunities for student engagement and rich learning outcomes. However, creating and managing effective online discussions can be one of the most vexing of design challenges. And while group work provides opportunities to practice cooperation, role differentiation, empathy, leadership and communication skills, it’s difficult to facilitate successful collaboration. This week, we acknowledge the importance of interactivity in online courses and together navigate the challenges that come with facilitating it.

Read + Discuss

“The Discussion Forum is Dead; Long Live the Discussion Forum” by Sean Michael Morris and Jesse Stommel, in Hybrid Pedagogy (May 8, 2013)

“Challenges facing group work online.” Distance Education. January 2, 2016.

Read the above articles and share your thoughts in the #5-read-discuss channel on Slack. You need not formulate a cohesive response before posting — in fact, we’d rather get your more in-process thinking, as that makes great fodder for discussion! Do you think a discussion forum will serve your needs in your class? Do you ask for collaboration in your classes? Why or why not? Where else in your life do you engage in collaborative processes and what makes those successful (or not)? Post your thoughts or ask more questions as they come to you.

*Supplementary reading if you want to explore specific strategies for leading engaging online discussions:  A. Darabi et al Cognitive presence in asynchronous online learning: a comparison of four discussion strategies

Case Study

Check out this week’s case study and share your thoughts on our #case-study channel in Slack.

Build Something:

Create your build in Blackboard or wherever else you’re hosting your class, then share a link in the #6-builds channel

OPTION 1: Create a collaborative assignment and set of instructions that explains a group work process to students. Instead of just listing instructions, try using Pictochart to create a visually engaging infographic. Some process factors you might consider: How will groups be determined? Will you structure student collaboration by requiring a group plan? Are there interim assignments leading to a larger project? What is the responsibility of each group to the rest of the class? What are the roles of individuals in the group? How will you assess students? 

OPTION 2:Set up a discussion platform you hope to use for your class — Blackboard, WordPress, Slack, or other (see readings above for some options or get in touch to ask for ideas). What’s possible there? What’s not? What practices would you pair with the tool to foster interaction? Create a sample discussion assignment that capitalizes on what this tool can do.