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University/College Professors

Online Discussions in Introductory Science Courses

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Emily Faulconer Emily Faulconer 5695 Points

I have been teaching exclusively online for 3 years and I love it! I thoroughly enjoy connecting with my students through the online discussions. I have done my best to make the discussions engaging as a conversation, but I still have a large portion of the students that treat it as a 'box-checking' activity, posting superficial reply posts that just barely earn their points, missing the goal of actually conversing about science. I've tried to make it engaging by posing controversial topics and asking students to craft an evidence-based opinion (using claim-evidence-reasoning) on the topic and then discuss. While this approach has garnered much stronger initial posts, reply posts are still formulaic and often occur very late in the module, preventing much back and forth conversation. 'Post and run' is penalized, with reply posts within 12 hours of each other penalized. 

Ideas for moving the online discussions to a more authentic conversation?

Does anyone have a rubric they can share that supports this conversational format? 

Dariana Vasquez Dariana Vasquez 1420 Points

Hello Emily,

As a current college student, I tend to respond to my discussions and replies to the best of my ability. The behavior you see might be because you may have a discussion due per week with a certain word minimum that students just type to complete the assignment. I would suggest limiting the amount you use discussion posts, and instead, resort to doing a dynamic within the course (if online synchronous) which one of my professors did throughout the semester. With this activity, you can assign breakout groups and give each a topic to research and discuss, then afterward share their opinions with the rest of the class. 

I hope this helps, best of luck!

Erica Martinez Erica Martinez 880 Points

Hello Emily, 

My suggestion to you is the following. Creating discussions that can give students confidence in responding would be you best bet. In my own experience, I feel confident responding to discussions that can stimulate my prior knowledge and that students can share their own experiences. Hope it helps!!

Robyn Soronow Robyn Soronow 13575 Points

Hello Emily, 

I am a college student. If I were you, I would offer extra credit for well-crafted replies, rather than taking away points for inadequate replies. Perhaps this positive approach to discussion replies will be more motivating for your students. I would also suggest giving your students more guidance about what you are looking for in a reply. For example, tell them they need to add something to the original poster's thoughts, with evidence and reasoning. You could give exemplars and talk about better replies. 

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