Do you dread discussion board conversations from students because they devolve into students latching on to one good answer and all simply agreeing with it–or, worse, running the whole sentence through a thesaurus so they each say the same thing in a slightly different (and increasingly wordy) way?
It doesn’t have to be that way. And you probably know this because you’ve had lively, smart conversations online somewhere, whether on Facebook, the comments of a blog, a chatroom, or elsewhere. If you’ve had that experience, rest assured that your students can have it in your online classroom too.
Above, fingers type of a backlit computer keyboard.
© User:Colin / Wikimedia Commons
In fact, you can have even BETTER conversations online than in person! And, in a digital classroom, they are far better than you can have in a synchronous chat. Here’s why:
- Students who are quieter or slow to respond in class have time to gather their thoughts online.
- Students don’t have to compete with the class loudmouth (a term I use endearingly, as someone who struggled to sit in silence and let others gather their thoughts as an undergraduate), so you have you are less likely to have one person dominating.
- Students who struggle to follow a fast-moving dialogue in class can take their time reading written comments from peers without getting lost or overwhelmed.
- Students who are cautious with their words have time to think them through.
- All students have the opportunity to slow down their thinking, select their word choices carefully, and revise their thoughts before they post them.
- Because students aren’t engaging face-to-face, some physical barriers fade away. No one is worried about their accent, the sound of their voice, or their appearance.
- When students aren’t having an in-person interaction, they are often more vulnerable with what they share.
- If you set the expectation that everyone will participate in discussion board, you’ll hear from more students than you typically do in class.
- When students get to think more carefully about their answers (often reading the question days in advance and thinking about it before they right), they give more thoughtful answers.
Having taught both online and in person for years (including different sections of the same courses), I have found that the online discussions my students have are richer, more thoughtful, and more respectful, with a broader range of voices. I hope you discover the same!
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