Here we are refering to using the MyLO Discussions tool (or discussion board) for asynchronous (non real time) communication. The purpose of the tool is to facilitate interaction and collaboration between students and teaching staff, and between students themselves
Discussion is most effective if it is structured around purposeful activities or tasks.
There is a qualitative difference between discussion moderated by an online discussion board and that which occurs in a face-to-face tutorial or seminar. Discourse through the discussion board is usually more structured, precise and reflective compared to the more spontaneous, less structured interactions in the live classroom. It reflects the difference between the written word and oral discourse as a means of thinking and communicating. The asynchronous nature of the discussion board allows time for reflection and considered response. It's thus a powerful learning tool in its own right, as well as a communications medium.
Check out the University's Exemplary QA Standards for Units with an online course (Standard No.2) for a variety of rationales for including the Discussions tool in your unit.
The value of the discussion board in learning and teaching is nicely summarised in the following extract from the University of Western Australia's publication Discussion boards.
Effective use of discussion boards can:
For advice on setting effective discussion activities, see Tips for developing discussion activities (PDF 47KB).
One way to make discussions purposeful to students is to link these to assessment in some way - see Eight ways to incorporate online discussion into assessment (PDF 66KB) for some possibilities.
All things in moderation (Gilly Salmon) - website based on her e-moderating book (see further reading below).
'Evaluating students' participation in on-line discussions' (S. Ho, Curtin Univ.) - looks at theories about, and strategies for, encouraging effective on-line participation, and reviews a range of qualitative and quantitative methods for assessing the effectiveness of students' on-line participation.
'Time saving Strategies and Tips for Instructors Using Online Discussion Forums' - (T. La Ferriere) - tips from practicing instructors in the Global Educators' Network.
Harisim, L., Hiltz, S. R., Teles, L. and Turoff, M. (1995). Learning Networks: A field guide to teaching and learning online. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA
Salmon, G. (2000). E-moderating: The key to teaching and learning online. Kogan Page, London.
Salmon, G. (2002). E-tivities: The key to active online learning. Kogan Page, London.
Authorised by the Associate Director, Service Delivery & Support
27 May, 2011