Use your checklist/rubric and assess one of your own postings from previous discussions. Did you meet the criteria outlined in your own assessment tool? What changes will you make in your expectations based on your own participation in online discussions?
I would say the post I chose did meet the criteria provide in my assessment tool. There were three spelling errors, which would lower the Mechanics grade to 3-Good. I pondered as to whether having no errors to get full credit is fair. In a synchronous environment, having no errors would be a little too stringent. In an asynchronous environment where one has the time to review and the availability of spellchecker, I don’t think it is unrealistic to expect correct spelling and grammar.
What changes might you make in your teaching practice based on what you now know about facilitating effective online discussions?
I don’t teach online, so all of this was new to me. Certain things, like responding in a reasonable time frame and monitoring the discussion, were things that I would have expected as part of an online course. The idea of starting courses with an icebreaker activity was something I wouldn’t have thought was needed. I teach in an environment with a revolving enrollment. I don’t really have a “beginning” of a course. There are two 3-week break sessions that split the year. Coming back from these can be a little rocky as the students get acclimated to being back in class. Having some icebreaker activities might be a good thing to do.
Another concept that I might try to incorporate is a variation of student-led discussions. For my GED classes, I have a set of 50 lessons that I run through, in a set order. What I might do is let students have some choice in the lessons to be taught. One way is to give them 3- 5 options at the beginning of class and, using their handheld devices, choose which lesson they want.
Another option would be to choose a student and let him/her make the choice. This might be a strategy to get some of my less inclined students to take more of an ownership in the lesson, maybe motivating them to want to be involved. I tell them all the time that they will pass their GED when they choose to put in the effort. Some students take awhile to realize that, but once they begin to take personal responsibility to learn, they inevitably pass. If I can find a way to come to that realization all the sooner, the better it will be for them.
Once again, I struggled with how to begin this assignment (communication plan). By the time I got through the readings, I noticed that the postings covered the same thoughts I had. Instead of repeating others comments, I just commented on or asked questions about their findings. I still wasn’t that much more aware of what I needed to include in my communication plan or what it should look like. Then, James Russell posted if anyone wanted to collaborate on this project. I immediately jumped at the chance, thinking that maybe others could help spur my thoughts.
Once we met to discuss, I was able to focus more on the assignment and it was more clear. I found three previous students communication plans online. Reading through them, I was able to develop an outline of topics to include. By this point, I was kicking in high gear. The only that could slow me down was the rubric. Being a math guy, rubrics are tough for me to write. Luckily, James took the lead on that. I added a few thoughts to the final rubric. When we had finished, I looked back and couldn’t believe we had come up with a plan that I thought was comprehensive and clear, especially considering my total cluelessness at the beginning.