Tips from the Pros: Get the Most Out of Online Discussion

Online discussion forums can produce livelier and deeper debate than is possible in face-to-face courses, but instructors are often challenged in reaching this goal. Two of the most frequently asked faculty questions concern (1) how to get students to participate in the discussion and (2) how to prevent the discussion from remaining at the superficial level. A few simple design strategies will help create effective discussions in your online courses.

Role-Playing for Improved Online Discussion

Despite a faculty memberís best efforts, online discussions often degenerate into students simply taking turns answering the original question rather than genuinely speaking to one another. One problem is that many students feel that it is not their place to criticize peers. This might be the result of the emphasis on inclusion in k-12 education, which is admirable, but could also be making students hesitant to challenge each otherís ideas.

Fact vs. Feeling in Flipped Learning

Flipped learning has become a hot topic in online education lately. The flipped classroom model moves the act of delivering information to the student in a traditional lecture outside of class in the form of a video or some other appropriate online content and moves the act of engaging with the material via homework into the classroom through some sort of in-class activity. Numerous studies have now demonstrated the superiority of flipped teaching to face-to-face instruction, especially in STEM classes. In fact, flipped classes were found to improve student learning by an average of 6 percent in these studies (Van Sickle, 2015).

Use Quizzes to Add Competition to Your Online Class

It is unfortunate that faculty members often deliberately avoid creating competition in their courses out of fear of damaging student self-esteem or privacy considerations. Competition is one of the best ways to achieve growth. We invariably perform better when we are striving to achieve in a competition. I once performed a maximum heart rate test on a stationary bike, and afterward, the tester added 10 beats per minute to the results to obtain my true maximum, on the grounds that people always achieve a higher heart rate during competition than they are capable of achieving on their own.