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Discussions:Practical Considerations

From Information about Isaak, Brock University's Sakai-Based LMS

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[edit] General Tips

  • Get to know the difference between Discussions/Chat/E-Mail.The discussion board is anywhere/anytime; chat is synchronous meet me in room 2 at 10:00pm on Tuesday; e-mail is private and for smaller groups.
  • If composing a lengthy response or comment, compose offline. If your internet connection goes down or your computer freezes, you will lose information. Composing in Word or another program and then cutting and pasting into the compose box will ensure you don't lose any information if Sakai/Isaak freezes up.
  • There are no COPY and PASTE buttons in Sakai/Isaak's discussion board. However, you can copy by highlighting text, hitting CTRL C (Copy) and CTRL V (Paste)*. Paste into any word document.
  • When adding an attachment to a discussion posting, you can attach any Word/PDF/HTML document. However saving it as an RTF will allow everyone to read it or save it regardless of the word processor.

[edit] Common Concerns

[edit] Students Only Summarize Posts / No Original Work

  • leave more open-ended room for questions
  • make sure they are aware that they are getting marks for posting original work
  • post leading questions
  • encourage students to ask questions about the material if they haven't got anything new to say
  • create options for both answering specific questions and posting own reflections and thoughts on readings/course material.
  • Post questions/topics that can be debated (therefore everyone will have the same opinion)
  • Include a couple of references from which students can read & post ideas on

[edit] Weak Responses

  • Variety of topics to respond to
  • If you have to make a post yourself. Try to say something as controversial as possible, then say 'discus'
  • Give them time to respond! i.e. 1 week
  • Give them your views & opinions ask what they think
  • Combine on-line discussions with RL discussions/seminars, so that the conversations spill over
  • Turn topic into and argument/debate so it will be easier for students to get involved or have an opinion ex: argue/support other peoples ideas or opinions (encourages interaction between students)
  • Put emotion into responses
  • Bring your personal experience and knowledge to help them

[edit] Lurking / No Posting

  • no posting - block them out (harsh)
  • offer candy to people who post
  • get involved or start your own post(s)
  • facilitate online discussion
  • possibly monitor/count how many times a student accesses Sakai/Isaak. (shows that they are interested)
  • post open ended questions that every student can relate to that way they will get more involved.
  • make sure they have understood what is expected of them
  • make posting contingent on marks

[edit] Students Post but do not read others comments

  • make part of their marks based on their response to others ex. I agree
  • create small discussion groups on line with different topics
  • tell them you've noticed this at a face-to-face seminar
  • tell them to read answers to questions that are already asked and are similar to theirs
  • say that every posting must end with a question then the next person can answer it.

[edit] Too many postings

  • set limits on response lengths (be concise)
  • emphasize quality and not quantity
  • important to read all responses not just the question
  • allow students to post only once a week
  • make students responsible for different topics i.e. One topic per student per week
  • click on mark all as read - joking

[edit] Technology Challenges

  • take a free computer lab tutorial through one of the many computer labs on campus
  • go over the basics with students & encourage them to explore and play around with the software/programs as part of presenting course outline
  • technology buddies

[edit] My Computer Crashed, The Dog Ate My Hard-Drive, etc.

  • do it early to avoid disappointment and save backups on CD etc.
  • come to school
  • go to YMCA
  • go to an internet cafe
  • use a friends
  • public library
  • use schools' computers
  • hand in a written copy of what you were planning to post in seminar or prior to it

[edit] Avoid Q and A format between participants and instructor

  • Be careful that the virtual class doesn't become a Q and A format or a dialogue between participants and instructor.
  • If you respond to each post, the discussion board quickly becomes one sided rather than group oriented. (This is like the seminar in which participants only direct their comments at the instructor rather than engage in a true group dialogue).
  • Deliberately hold back in the initial posts but make it clear to the group that you are reading the posts.
  • Demonstrate you are reading the posts by synthesizing the argument from time to time or quoting from 2 or 3 posts and offering a comment that extends and deepens the discussion. This can be done online or F2F.

[edit] Informal Comments and Discussions

  • It is best to take a proactive approach to off-topic postings. Just as students do not exclusive talk about course topics while in a F2F classroom, students while more than likely want to make an off-topic post to the Sakai/Isaak discussion board.
  • Create a space for informal comments and discussion, the topic can be label 'off-topic', 'chit-chat', 'coffee room', etc. In a classroom it is understood that off-topic comments will not be made during instruction, but there is time permitted in the hallways, etc. Sakai/Isaak will not automatically create this informal space for you.
  • Alternatively, you can be very explicate about what is appropriate discussion in Sakai/Isaak through your syllabus or during other orientation opportunities, like making the first post to the discussion board.
  • Seemingly off-topic posts can mutate into very salient, on-topic, posts.
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