Monday, September 30, 2013

Did we miss the point.  After watching Walker's recorded weekly wrap-up session - it floated into my mind.  Why are we talking about discussion forums and social presence/content presence when really we would probably all learn a lot more if this course about online learning was within a LMS and someone was modeling these techniques rather than hearing gurus talk about the "art" of online learning.

The part from this wrap-up that probably moved me onto this vein was  the statement of "modeling social context, interactivity and a sense of privacy".   After hearing this, I wrote the phrase down and put ???  in the margin and I am still pondering this. What does this look like - could someone show me it in an actual discussion forum?

"Teaching and social presence is basic learning but cognitive presence takes learning beyond the basic towards application and appreciation." This is another one that needed me to go back over the definitions. So here we want to find out whether the learners have had critical discourse reflected on what they were discussing in the forum and have they constructed personal meaning and confirmed our mutual understanding. Another aught moment.

The one thing that this week has done for me is underlined that teaching on-line and especially the discussion board/forums are an enigma.  Even after going through the course materials this week and participating in Dr. Healther Farmakis' Blackboard presentation and listening to the weekly wrap-up t I was still thinking I was a fish out of water. I reviewed some on-line learning articles I had found a couple of years ago when I was keen on improving my on-line discussions.  CREST+ Model: Writing Effective Online Discussion Questions, (2007) Akin & Neal this article talks about types of discussion questions from problem based to literature-based to an experiential element.  The thing that I still think is missing it is that it is fine to talk in the abstract but if you are new to on-line learning it would help if there were samples of these types of discussions and responses. I appreciate Vanessa Paz Dennen's articles in Distance Education, "From Message Posting to Learning Dialogues: Factors affecting learner participation in asynchronous discussion" (2005)as the article has specific examples of what is being discussed and how it was being used in the discussion forums.  What I gathered from analysis is that the more personal or relevant to the participants lives they more likely they are to expand in the discussion forum. The other article by her that I found very informative was "Lookinf for evidence of learning: Assessment and analysis methods for online discourse (2008).  In this article she makes the point that if participants are engaging in an activity it should "somehow enhance the learning experience" p 206 (2008)  The question then becomes how does this look or as an online facilitator how do you ensure that this experience happens? What I appreciated here was that she provided a couple of discussion board samples and then proceeded to analyze them.

Moving forward I think that without marks attached it is not likely you will have the entire class participate.  Lurking is not valued in the online environment whereas we appreciate students coming to class even if they do not actively participate in class discussion.  If your course lends itself to current events then capturing these events in the discussion forum will enhance the discussion. Another way to enhance the discussion is to create roles ex.) white hat, black hat, critic etc. The art of being online is to create a discussion forum that really is a discussion.

Akin, Lynn & Diane Neal CREST+ Model: Writing Effective Online Discussion Question, MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, Vol 3, No, 2, June 2007
Paz Dennen, Vanessa, Looking for evidence of learning: Assesment and anlaysis methods for online discourse,  Computers in Human Behavior 24 (2008) 205-219.
Paz Dennen, Vanessa, From Message Posting to Learning Dialogues: Factors affecting learner partiipation in asynchronous discussion, Distance Education, Vol 26, No 1, May 2005 pp127-148


  1. Hi Pat,

    Sorry I don't understand your statement" we would probably all learn a lot more if this course about online learning was within a LMS". How does an LMS tool increase learning?


    1. Sorry I haven't been back here since I wrote my post - yikes. Most instructors/teachers/profs teach they way they were taught . . . unless they have taken some type of education to move them into a new direction. I think Jennifer below speaks to what I meant but didn't say: To me, personally, I would appreciate seeing a discussion question in a LMS and how the discussion unfolds and then a facilitator explaining how to keep everyone going forward.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your views Pat. I have to agree with many of the things that you said - there is a lot of discussion - but actually seeing all of this play out is quite a different thing. I have never really experienced the types of discussions that Greg or Dr. Framakis speak of - either as a student or an instructor. So it is hard to create something that you have never experienced. Thanks again for sharing your point-of-view!