Tag Archives: Discussion

Anonymous Discusison Board Activity

Reading: Identified vs Anonymous Participation in Student Discussion Boards

Online discussion boards, and associated activities that use them, can get a bit of a bad name sometimes either through inacitivty or lack of quality posts to abusive or bullying. I admit these are extremes of activity, but none the less still valid concerns for academics who want to try something new or different.

I’ve always tried to advocate the approach of ‘design an activity and then see which tools fits’ rather than ‘an activity written around a discussion board’. The latter implies it’s the tool driving the activity, the former implies the activity or learning outcome is matched to the most appropriate tool.

When setting discussion boards up I’ve always favoured posts being attributed to and identifiable to the person posting it – this helps to build personal relationships based on content and opinions, it also helps to encourage ownership and a responsible online etiquette (netiquette). But what about the option of allowing posts to be anonymous? Does this stop the discussion taking shape or progressing?

The paper, by Roberts and Rajah-Kanagasabai (2013) looks at the anonymity of posts and the ‘comfort’ of students to participate in anonymous discussions over those where they are identified. Continue reading

video

Using video: from passive viewing to active learning

videoEmily Moore has written this great introduction in the Faculty Focus: online magazine: “From Passive Viewing to Active Learning: Simple Techniques for Applying Active Learning Strategies to Online Course Videos”. Please read the original as it covers more in depth use of video, but my highlights of the piece are below.

Video as a guided lesson (flipping the classroom?): “The goal here is to help ensure that students watch videos actively—in other words, giving it their full attention. You also want to help draw students’ attention to (and reinforce) the most important concepts being presented.”

  • Pose a question at the beginning of each video to give students an idea before they watch of what to expect, what to look for, and what might be worth thinking about.
  • Present videos in an outline-like structure using concise, descriptively labeled links that include running times as shown below.
  • Embed short graded or self-assessments either in the video itself, or at the end of each video.

Video as springboard for in-depth discussion: Continue reading

Lurker or Listener

Listener or Lurker? #edchat

Lurker or ListenerI have always felt a little uncomfortable with the term ‘lurker’ when talking about users who are in the background on online discussions or social networks.

My first thought when someone is described as a ‘lurker’ is:

“someone that would hide in concealment, often for an evil purpose.” Wikipedia

which is what some people used to do in Internet chat rooms when the Internet was in it’s infancy. The term has taken on a less ‘evil’ undertone in recent years, and now ‘to lurk’ is:

“to learn the conventions of an online community before they actively participate, improving their socialization when they eventually de-lurk.” Wikipedia

But I can’t help think of it’s previous definition and use, where someone hides in the shadows for unscrupulous activity (you could argue the same is still going on today). This above new definition is also based on the premise that the ‘lurker’ will eventually be an active participant.

What if they don’t want to? What if the ‘lurker’ is happy being in the background and only offering something when the need arises? Nothing wrong with that.

This is why I would rather use the term ‘listener’ as it seems closer to the truth – they are online and in the online environment with their peers, but they choose to ‘listen’ rather then participate (for many different reasons). They are thinking about and taking notes about what is being said, adding their own voice when they feel the need, but for the most part they stay quiet.

Think about it – when you meet your friends and chat over coffee or a beer – do you ‘lurk’ in the conversation when you say nothing, or do you ‘listen’?

Image: Lurktastic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

PS. I resisted using a cat image for this post, it was too predictable (just search ‘pounce‘ and you’ll see what I mean!).

EDCMOOC

Reflection on the ‘eLearning and Digital Cultures’ MOOC, Wk.3 #edcmooc

EDCMOOCWeek three and into ‘block 2′ of the five week Coursera / University of Edinburgh MOOC: ‘eLearning and Digital Cultures’. Are we leaving the bliss of utopia behind, or will be building on the fear of a controlling and dystopian ‘master’ as we become ‘human’?

“What does it mean to be human within a digital culture, and what does that mean for education?”

This week is introduced from the perspective that “we tend not to question, in our everyday lives, where the boundaries of ‘the human’ lie”.  As with previous weeks we have a few videos to watch and criticise analyse as well as a few papers and web resources to read in order to define or answer what it means to be human in the future.

  • The advert from Toyota has had a lot of discussion in the Coursera forum but I have a more cynical approach to it – stop trying to intellectualise something that is pure marketing. Do you really think Toyota is trying to make some kind of moral message on the future of technology, or just trying to replicate other successful advertising or cinematic sequences? The end of the advert is very reminiscent of the end of The Truman Show, where Truman (aka Jim Carrey) has a choice to stay in the world he now knows is fake, yet safe, or leave to an unknown but world that allows freedom of choice and experience. Isn’t this also what education is becoming … isn’t this why we’re also doing this MOOC, for the freedom of choice?
  • The second advert, this time one of the adverts in the series from BT (UK) which is supposed to represent “authentic” human contact, taking a cheap shot at the Instant Messaging and Facebook generation in an effort to show how a simple phone call is the real thing. No, a conversation in person is the real thing, a phone call is the next best thing. If we take this scenario into the real world, into my day to day work, then I would rather walk along the corridor to someone’s office and talk to them properly than a phone call or email. In an online learning environment this is obviously not possible, and neither is a phone call (one tutor to ‘x’ number of students, that could be a lot of calls) – this is why Instant Messaging or discussion boards and/or conference calls (Skype?) are popular, and will remain so.

Continue reading

7 Student Myths of the Online Classroom

7 Myths in the Online Classroom

7 Student Myths of the Online Classroom

Photo credit: Lincolnian (Brian) via Photopin / CC

Online learning, or distance learning, or eLearning (or even e-learning) has been around now in various guises for quite some time.

This article from eLearn Magazine “7 Student Myths of the Online Classroom” highlights some of the more popular myths surrounding the student’s perspective of online learning. Please read the full article using the link above as the below is only my interpretation of them:

  1. I can log into the class any time I want.

Yes, you can, but obviously the materials, resources, activities are (or rather should be) designed to encourage interaction, collaboration, and engagement with your fellow students. While you may not be scheduled to be online at 8PM every Thursday evening (remember any differences in time-zones) it is likely you ought to try and work out when others will be online so you can coordinate responses and make the most of your time together.

  1. Instructors are available 24/7.

Don’t be silly. No one person, while at work, is available 24/7 (and if you are please stop it!). Even if the customer service of your supermarket or bank is available 24/7 you can be sure that it is staffed by a rotating shift pattern to rest the individual. We live in an always-connected world but we still need to disconnect and do something else. Online/distance learners do need support and guidance and, if their study pattern is in the evening and at weekend ‘should’ the Institution put something in place to support them during those hours? Discuss … !
Continue reading

Blackboard Essentials for Teachers

Book Review: “Blackboard Essentials for Teachers”

Blackboard Essentials for TeachersBlackboard Essentials for Teachers” is new book written by William Rice for teachers and educators who use Blackboard. By following the examples in the book you will be guided through the process of creating your own Blackboard course, adding static material for students to view (such as pages, links, and media), adding interaction to your courses (discussion boards, blogs,  wikis, etc) and using interactions to engage students in the course through the communication channels.

Scroll down to find out how you can win a complementary copy of the paper or eBook edition of the book from the publishers …

What the book hopes to do is to get a novice or first-time Blackboard user familiar with the interface and features in a manner that they can (a) understand, and (b) use in relation to a taught course site. With the help of the book the reader should be able to:

  • create web pages using Blackboard’s test editor (note: the new content editor is not featured, therefore the book is already a little out of date),
  • organise courses using pages and modules,
  • upload files and learning materials
  • set up discussion boards, blogs, and wikis for student engagement and interaction
  • build and administer online tests
  • online assignment submission
  • manage groups
  • use announcements effectively for student information

I was one of the technical reviewers of the book while it was being written by the author, and provided feedback on the content as well as the presentation style. I’ll say now that I received a complimentary copy of the book for my time and trouble in reviewing the submitted chapters, but received no other payment for my work on the book (i.e. I don’t have to do this review, I wanted to). There, now that’s out of the way.

This review is as much about the book as the process of being involved in the reviewing process, one that I enjoyed and would happily be involved in again (given the chance).

What do I think of the book?
It’s a basic introduction to Blackboard that non-Blackboard users will welcome. There is enough here for more advanced users too but it lacks explanation (for my liking) of the more pedagogical implications and applications of the tools and features of Blackboard. I do, however, agree that the approach used in the book is appropriate for the target audience. The book is effective in its approach and the way it introduces the various features and tools, and goes further than other guides I have read on the administration tools that can help academic and support staff engage the students online.

The downside of the paper book is, as ever, the black-and-white images. I am a very visual learner and like to see examples of what the author was trying to explain – so why not put more images in? Trying to describe a web page is best done with an image of the web page (in colour)! This kind of book subject would do well in an expanded eBook format with more dynamic images (video even) showing in much more detail the process or pages in question. Even if the paper copy is black and white, could they not have created the eBook with colour images?

How is the book structured?
Each chapter is well structured and written from the authors experience, but is based on the open CourseSites and may be subject to discrepancies if the Blackboard installation you have is set up differently from the one described in the book.

With different elements of Blackboard highlighted in the book it’s easy to find your way around the often complicated processes for creating materials or assessments, bold text boxes break the content up and bring new terms, features, or ‘quick tips’ to the fore make it a good reference book.

The structure is good, starting with the basics of organising your Blackboard course and setting up/loading materials before getting into the newer tools like wikis or blogs. My personal preference would have been to leave these kinds of tools until later (after handling the assignments, tests, groups, and Grade Centre) as wikis and blogs are good collaborative and reflective tools that are underpinned from concepts dealt with in those (earlier) chapters. Putting the Announcements and communication chapter so late in the book is a mistake, and I would have this nearer the front and this is still the more underutilised area of Blackboard I see on a regular basis.

One aspect of Blackboard that the book did not cover in enough detail for me is a ‘good’ structure for a Blackboard course site – I know this will always be subjective to the individual or Institution where we/you work but a demonstration of a good structure (and why it’s good) could have made it easier to explain why some of the other features are used, when, and where (contextual).

Did my revisions/suggestions make the final edition?
I think there are a few instances where I can see my comments had an influence on the final edit, but it could easily have been a comment made by the other reviewers too. The difficulty when reviewing a book (I have done a couple now) is that I only see one-chapter-at-a-time, and not always in the order they appear in the final edition. I also had no knowledge of the chapter list so therefore no knowledge of where the chapter I was reading would appear, and what came before or was to come after it. This made it difficult to review as much of what I wanted to know in each chapter may be dealt with later, or not, I didn’t know.

What would I include that the author didn’t?
I have already said, for me, it’s the presentation of the book that is mainly at fault, and to this I can’t blame the author – he’s only working according to the publisher guidelines and requirements. When dealing with a visual topic and/or software that needs explaining and demonstrating why try and describe or explain it in words when an image or video is far easier to understand?

The use of links (even QR Codes?) could have directed the reader off to a YouTube channel with supporting screencasts of some of the more trickier set up tools ro techniques, which would have helped with explanations.

Would I buy the book?
The book is impressive and a comprehensive guide to using Blackboard, and there is something for everyone here, even advanced users.

I can see there will need to be some fairly( major?) revisions in future, or indeed another book, when Blackboard has another update or new release, but the majority of the elementary features (Announcements, Groups, etc) have not changed over the last release or so, much!

Book Review: Blackboard Essentials for Teachers

The book is available in either paper or eBook format, ‘Blackboard Essentials for Teachers’ is available online from PacktPub.


Book Give Away!

The publishers are kind enough to let me copies of the book to give away – two paper and two electronic editions. All you have to do is leave a comment below about how the book will change how you work with Blackboard (and your preference of paper or eBook).

Only comments made to this blog – www.dontwasteyourtime.co.uk – will count as an entry to the raffle and my decision on the winners is final. I will contact the winners and get the required details from you and pass these across to PacktPub where you receive your prize. Please note that paper copies can only be sent to UK, US, and European addresses.

Student Engagement

Encouraging students to participate in online discussion

Student Engagement

What many educators find is that, despite our best efforts, there is at least one student who will just not engage or participate in the online discussion. When the programme or course is delivered purely online, and all activities are delivered online, this is a worry. When the cohort size is small (less than 20 students) just a few who don’t engage make a huge hole in the quality of discussion taking place.

So, how do ‘we’ encourage the ‘few’ who don’t like, or want, to engage?

Robin Bartoletti writes on her blog  about “Tips for Encouraging Student-Faculty Contact“, that explaining and outlining the goals, the Intended Learning Outcome (ILOs) as I know them, will direct the students to the expected level (and quantity) of participation. These ILOs are the “framework to tie content to, throughout the course, so the students better understands why they are completing (the) assignment.”

Continue reading