David Hopkins

Encouraging Student Participation in Large (Online) Classes #eLearning

I’m being a little slow here today, it must be the snow, but it wasn’t until Michelle Hoyle (@Eingang) comment on my tweet that I realised that the article I’d read and tweeted about had context in the online eLearning environment.

The article, from Faculty Focus, is on “Encouraging Student Participation in Large Classes” and is worth taking the couple of minutes needed to read it if you can.

Essentially, the author (Angie Thompson) sets the scene for the students in a large cohort/classroom and uses ‘daily experts’;

“I list five or six students’ names at the beginning of my classes [...] these individuals, assuming they are in class that day, then become my daily experts—the first ones I ask questions to or opinions of before opening discussion to the whole class. The approach provides for one-on-one dialogue in the midst of a larger class creating an environment that encourages interaction.”

By building on the responses the rest of the class is then ‘invited’ to join the discussion. It also doesn’t have to be limited to large cohorts, it can equally be used in classes where the student don’t necessarily know each other yet.

So, what about using this for online learners who work asynchronously?Why not, so long as the scene is properly set and explained at the start, and each student knows their role (and the role of their peers) then they can continue to work in the usual pattern with the ‘daily experts’ taking the strain but also taking the credit for the initial work (would you assign marks to this role if you could ensure that each students got a turn?).

By using a Discussion Board this can be easily done – you set it up so all the students can initially see the board but only the selected students, the daily experts, can post to it. Once you have the initial discussion with them, you then open the discussion to the rest of the students to continue and expand the topic.

I think it is then important that you also close the discussion with an individual reflection, from each students, on how they would have responded if they had been the daily expert, and how their initial response might have changed the subsequent direction of the discussion.

Why not take the daily expert role one step further and encourage these students to take a more active ‘moderatorial’ role (is that a word? I mean that they become moderators to relieve some of the work that the tutors do). You could then mark the students for their discussion and reflection on the topic, and the direction the topic took?

Daily experts enable the other students to;

“..  benefit when they consider how they might have responded differently. They can learn from others’ experiences and see how to ask questions in a nonthreatening way. The technique helps everyone engage more actively in the course material. So if you want your classes (even large ones) to be interactive, a daily expert approach might be just what you’re looking for.”