A well-designed online discussion engages students in an open-ended conversation that promotes deepened understanding of a topic. Design is only part of the process, though. To be truly effective, an online discussion needs to be facilitated by you in a way that encourages conversation and promotes exploration.
Online discussions differ from face to face discussions in several ways, as noted in the table below.
FACE TO FACE
In an online discussion, you design and facilitate the discussion while the students learn from each other and craft their own understanding of the topic. The students are responsible for learning the material and teach each other, while you facilitate the process from the side.
- Prepare for in-class discussion (by posting questions for students to respond to prior to class)
- Identify key concepts in course readings
- Extend and apply issues introduced in course materials
- Continue in-class discussion outside of class time
- Because online discussion encourages reading and reflecting in order to participate and reply, students have to actively engage and utilize critical thinking skills.
- For students who are shy or quiet, or perhaps unfamiliar with the English language, discussion groups in class can be intimidating. Doing it online would have great appeal to students like these.
- Large-enrollment classes often suffer from a lack of student participation. Online discussion provides these classes with a medium through which many-layered conversations may take place more fluidly than in a lecture hall of 100 students.
- Ideally, online discussion would foster a sense of community among the students, and would lead to actual discussion inside and outside of the classroom.
- Online discussion allows students to do quick online research and readings while reflecting, and as such they might cite this research to back up their point. The at-your-own-pace response time gives students a better chance to think.