Online classroom discussion, when done well, should encourage student participation and interaction. With minimal effort on the teacher’s part it is possible to engage students even with little to no face-to-face contact. By adjusting the way the question is posed, or by asking students to answer questions collaboratively, can make for a much more meaningful learning experience.
Many of us are now looking to engage the use of Dragons’ Exchange (DX) as a powerful blended learning tool, with online discussions, playing a significant role. So how can we use online discussions, like those in DX, to promote sustained engagement and participation?
The “how” or “why” questions, although they essentially promote convergent thinking, certainly have a place in online discussion. Post an article, Podcast or video and ask a question of this nature. Rather than invite students to piggy back on the response prior to their own own, hide comments for the time being and once all students have responded, unlock for all to see. Students can now engage in discussion by responding to one another. These types of discussion questions can often lead to sustained debate, particularly once differing options are revealed.
Questions that get students to think about the outcome or consequences associated with certain events have the potential to sustain ongoing interest since it empowers students to take a more creative approach in responding to the question. For example: Pose a scenario related to the ethical concerns of genetic testing. What are the implications of the choices made in this situation? Posing the question as a scenario encourages students to connect with the situation and engage more meaningfully with the discussion.
Why not try a collaborative online debate to promote evaluative thinking? Pose a debate topic and separate the class into two groups – those for and those against. Any online response to the topic of conversation must be either for or against. You could even look to create a third group, those that can pose questions to either argument. This type of online discussion can promote healthy competition while maintaining ongoing dialogue.
Online class discussions have the ability to:
- Build communities
- Encourage reflection
- Promote critical thinking
- Demonstrate knowledge of key concepts
- Promote consensus building
Online discussions complement and improve the interactions that occur in your classroom by providing students with the opportunity to thoughtfully engage with ideas and with each other. Blending these discussion opportunities into your instruction can also be a powerful alternative to traditional homework.
Blending online discussion opportunities into your face-to-face instruction is an excellent alternative to traditional homework, also complementing and improving face-to-face discussions. It gives all students the opportunity to thoughtfully engage with ideas, and with each other. For further information on the benefits to students and their learning, see Eric Brunsell’s article Blended Learning: Adding Asynchronous Discussions to Your F2F Classrooms.