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May 2013

Not every Discussion Forum requires you to respond individually to each student. Not every learning outcome will benefit from individual responses from you to each student. Our approach is to suggest that you should think carefully about what you are trying to achieve with your Discussion Forums and then build a schedule of response types that you will use throughout the semester. If you intend to use your posts to provide reinforcement to individual students, this dictates a Forum where you will respond individually. If your intent is to clarify misconceptions, a summary of the posts of the students might be a better choice. If you have a large number of students, moving students into groups and requiring one response from each group will rapidly reduce the number of required responses from you.

We encourage you to learn several different response techniques and then match these techniques to particular Forums. Not only will this provide variety to the types of responses you develop but it can be used to reduce the amount of required responses that you must create. We do believe it is extremely important to communicate your intentions and expectations to students. You do not want students expecting a response from you when it will not be coming. You also don't want students expecting some form of personalized attention when your intent is to post a summary. Clarifying your intentions and clearly communicating these to students will allow you to use a variety of response types successfully. We suggest you clearly explain to students the types of responses they can expect to receive for each discussion forum. From the studentsí perspective, this looks like a varied feedback strategy and is appreciated. From your perspective, you have reduced the overall time investment for responses.

Our belief is that you mix-and-match these approaches to manage workload while firmly establishing instructor presence in the course. We do not encourage the exclusive use of any one strategy throughout the course. It is the diversity of approaches that allow you to point out different concepts and points in different ways that we believe have value.

Use of Summaries

Providing a summary of the postings on the Forum is one way to show presence, provide feedback, and prompt additional thought. It also quickly reduces the amount of responses required from you. You read through the postings and take brief notes on trends you see in the postings. You use these notes to create a single posting to explain these trends, clarify points of confusion, and to insert new information based on the responses. We have found that mentioning several students with similar points of view is useful. Many students report almost as much satisfaction and connection with this approach as they report with individual responses from the instructor.

30 students @ 3 minutes per response = 90 minutes
30 students @ 15 minutes per summary = 15 minutes

Group Postings

Establishing groups and requiring these groups to reach agreement on a single posting is another way to reduce the number of postings you generate. Provide a group area where the group can work over distance to develop their posting and then have one member of the group post their response to the main course discussion board.

30 students @ 3 minutes per response = 90 minutes
30 students divided into 5 groups @ 10 minutes per response = 50 minutes

Model Facilitation and Use Student DB Facilitators

A portion of maintaining the discussion board is tracking responses, maintaining order, and encouraging reluctant posters. These are skills that students can learn. One way to reduce the amount of posting required of you is to push some of this responsibility to students. Facilitate one discussion and clearly make the skills required to sustain the discussion visible. Create a rubric explaining how you will grade the student facilitation of the Forum. You can then assign student facilitators (as individuals or groups) to facilitate and sustain the discussion throughout a particular time period.

30 students @ 3 minutes per response = 90 minutes
30 students with student facilitator = 0 minutes; Additional summary posting from you @ 15 minutes = 15 minutes

Lurking as a Strategy

There are times when it is a good strategy to tell students that you will lurk during the discussion. Explain that you will read all posts but that students should not expect a post from you during the discussion.

30 students with lurking strategy = 0 minutes

page last updated 12/11/2014 4:36 PM