Day 3: Bringing discussions online

question mark

Part of the goal of the coffee course blog is to build a social learning community (see below for more information). For this first (fun!) activity, take a photo of an object which represents an effective online discussion, post it here and tell us why you’ve chosen the object in the comments below.

How is the online environment different?

What is engagement and what does it mean to be engaged online? There are several mechanisms used to “legislate” engagement within physical spaces, such as imposing mandatory lecture and tutorial attendance, or including an assessable component on participation, equating some form of physical presence to engagement (Brown et al., 2018, p. 318 – 322).

Can we similarly measure this form of presence online, particularly within asynchronous discussions? For many, allocating marks to contributions on forums or using learning analytics to track students guaranteed some form of presence. But how comparable are online and offline presence? And is presence necessarily engagement? Conversations off- and online, for example, require different mechanisms: While offline conversations rely more on speech and body language, online conversations rely more on writing with the occasional video or audio (Brown et al., 2018, p. 318 – 322), communication (all while praying that technology works). As Morris and Stommel (2018, p. 86) explain:

“In the room with our students, we can know if they’re engaged and participating… In an online discussion forum, it’s difficult to observe such nuance, and impossible to quantitatively evaluate it.”

Online and offline spaces are different learning environments and hence, require different treatment and preparation. In this post, we will talk through some considerations when bringing discussions online. You can read more about engagement and how it changes online in our previous coffee course on Engaging Students Online.

Types of online discussions

Online discussions can broadly be separated into two categories:

  • Synchronous discussions refer to online discussions that happen at the same time. These may include webinars via Adobe Connect/Zoom or live chats on Twitter.
  • Asynchronous discussions occur when participants respond at different times, often at their convenience. This is most commonly in the form of an online forum – coffee course is a very good example of asynchronous learning!

Depending on the mode of teaching (e.g. fully online, blended), you may use both, either or none. Selecting which type of discussion will depend on the purpose of the discussion, the number of participants, the time, etc. Below is an infographic by McNamee (2018) describing the benefits and considerations of synchronous and asynchronous learning (note: beyond discussions).

Synchronous vs Asynchronous Learning


Many of the considerations discussed below are quite similar to those we discussed in Day 1 and Day 2 of this course. Try to pick out the subtle differences – how do these change the way you conduct discussions online?

  • Plan: Who, What, When, Where, How?

Similar to face-to-face discussions, planning for online discussions is critical. In fact, facilitating effective online discussions is likely to require more planning and set-up than offline ones as they are complicated by hard- and software.

Here is a template adapted from Schliephake and Vogel (2018) to help you plan your online discussion: 

planning for online discussion template

Check out the full version of Schliephake and Vogel’s (2018) template here.

  • Motivation to participate

What motivates you to participate in coffee courses, or not? One of the most important considerations to have when designing online discussions is motivators. Why should your student participate in online discussions? Are they motivated by the topic or social aspects of the discussion (i.e. intrinsic motivation)? Or are they motivated by the marks or grade attached to participation (i.e. extrinsic motivation)?

According to Rovai (2007, p. 79), there is a significant increase in student participation and a “concurrent increase in sense of classroom community for courses in which discussions accounted for 10– 20% of the course grade compared to courses in which discussions were not graded.” As a medium that relies heavily on writing, which arguably requires more skill than speaking in the context of a discussion (e.g. grammar, feeling more accountable), students must be provided with significant motivation to participate where the outcomes of the activity are clear, specific and highly valued.

Active facilitation by the teacher also motivates students to participate more as they feel that their discussions are guided, valued and validated by the teaching staff.

  • Setting reasonable expectations

It can be quite tricky to get online discussions started if clear expectations are not put in place. This is particularly so if the discussions are graded as students are not certain if, for example, simply agreeing with a statement made by another peer is sufficient. Setting expectations upfront can help students craft their responses in a more thoughtful, reflective and respectful manner.

Rovai (2007) suggests drawing up a discussion rubric for students:

question markThe discussion rubric developed by Rovai is very detailed and from my perspective, may alter discussions into assessments, particularly when marks/grades are involved. What do you think? How can we define and measure online discussions effectively? Do they necessarily land themselves as assignments?


  • Building student-led, community/social spaces

Effective online discussions are often led by student-to-student interactions as they encourage ownership of ideas, active engagement with peers and content, and construction of knowledge through dialogue (not forced instruction).

As a facilitator, your role is to provide guidance and encouragement when needed and move conversations forward to meet the purpose and learning objectives of the discussion rather than dominate the dialogue (Collison et al., 2000). Often, such engagement is facilitated by introducing informal discussion spaces or activities that promote social presence. These give students a sense that they are not talking into the void but to people who are real. Providing ice-breaker activities such as the first question posted at the beginning of this post can help students connect with their peers and build a sense of community.

Below are some resources where you can find good online ice-breaker activities:

  1. Conrad, R. & Donaldson, J. A. (2011). Engaging the Online Learner: Activities and Resources for Creative Instruction. USA, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  2. Shriner, B. (2018). Adjunct World: 5 Creative Icebreakers Assignments for the Online Classroom. Retrieved from https://adjunctworld.com/blog/5-creative-icebreakers-assignments-for-the-online-classroom/

What constitutes effective online discussion?

What is the purpose of online discussion, really? Many of the considerations above lend itself to presence and attendance, not engagement or participation. Morris and Stommel (2013) specifically talks about this in their article, The discussion forum is dead; long live the discussion forum, which I highly recommend that you read before deciding on using an online forum. While self-motivated engagement is much more visible on social media such as Reddit, Twitter or Facebook, it is much less so within a teaching and learning context. How can we, then, measure the effectiveness of online discussions within this context? What constitutes effective online discussions for you?

Other Resources

Brown, C., Davis, N., Sotardi, V. & Vidal, W. (2018). Towards understanding of student engagement in blended learning: A conceptualization of learning without borders. In M. Campbell, J. Willems, C. Adachi, D. Blake, I. Doherty, S. Krishnan, S. Macfarlane, L. Ngo, M. O’Donnell, S. Palmer, L. Riddell, I. Story, H. Suri & J. Tai (Eds.), Open Oceans: Learning without borders. Proceedings ASCILITE 2018 Geelong (pp. 318-323).

Collison, G., Elbraun, B., Haavind, S. & Tinker, R. (2000). Facilitating online learning: Effective strategies for moderators. USA: Atwood Publishing.

McNamee, P. (2018). Synchronous vs Asynchronous Learning: Which is Right for your Learners?, LearnUpon. Retrieved from http://www.learnupon.com/blog/synchronous-learning-asynchronous-learning/.

Morris, S.M. & Stommel, J. (2018). An urgency of teachers: The work of Critical Digital Pedagogy. USA: Hybrid Pedagogy Inc.

Rovai, A. P. (2007). Facilitating online discussions effectively, The Internet and Higher Education, 10: pp. 77–88.

26 thoughts on “Day 3: Bringing discussions online

  1. This is really a timely discussion topic for me. I attended the Wattle training last week held by the CHELT and learned about Padlet. I used it for an online course supported by Adobe Connect. Although there is an embedded function of Adobe Connect called note, I found students are more active in posting on Padlet, maybe because they can also see other’ opinion at the same time. However, since the Padlet posting was taking place at the same time as the group discussion, I found students were not actively engaged in group discussion. It seems to be a dilemma. I’m sharing this experience to seek advice. Looking forward to any suggestions!

    1. Hi Wenting, thank you for sharing your experience. It is indeed a dilemma! I want to give my students choices but when you do, they may not be engaged in some spaces. For me, I would go back to my learning objectives. Did using Padlet meet the same objective as your online discussion? And did students engage with other students’ posts on Padlet? If they did, perhaps it isn’t an issue. You could also set expectations and provide motivators for students to participate (e.g tips for assessment or small percentage of marks) in the discussion forum.

  2. In my view, if discussion is important it must be assessed, if it is not important, then it need not be assessed. Of course, if it is not important, then why go to the trouble and expense of having the discussion at all?

    For the last ten years I have been routinely assessing graduate student’s on-line discussion. When I stared doing this I worried if I was competent to do so, and if students would accept it. But after training, and development of suitable rubrics, I stopped worrying, and very few students expressed any concern. There was a reasonable correlation between discussion marks, and other forms of assessment.

    For the last two years I have been using peer assessment of discussion. I worried about this until I enrolled in a course where I had to use peer assessment as a student, which worked okay. Also my assessment of my students’ discussion correlated with their own peer assessment (except the students marked each other 10% harder than I did).

    ps: I question the assumption that we know when students in a face-to-face classroom are engaged and participating. Unless we have something like eye-tracking technology, we don’t know they are actually engaged. Unless we measure their individual contributions, we don’t know if they participating.

    I took part in an experiment at ANU last week, where I had to sit in front of an eye-tracker, and role play with another person. We both also had wristbands measuring pulse rate. This was all a bit intrusive. But is now feasible to measure student’s body posture in a classroom. Do we want to do that?

    1. Online learning metrics are a terrible circumstance of a solution that mugged a problem in an alley way and called it a mutual benefit. Learning biometrics will immediately be a discriminatory function of the programmer+beta test units being the base line “good”, and deviation from that “good” being a problem. Specifically, eye contact, gaze and fixations are going to discriminate against anyone on the spectrum, with imperfect vision, or any degree of visual impairment.

      Just say no to biometric education tracking.

    2. Hi Tom, always interesting to hear from you! How did the peer assessment work? Did you have a rubrics for students? I want to know everything because it sounds like such a good motivator for students!

      I guess it can be slightly unfair to make the assumption that it is easier to know if students are more engaged within face-to-face discussions – noise and chatter don’t necessarily land themselves to good engagement or discussion (especially if they go off topic which I know many do!). But putting face-to-face aside, I’m still wondering what we mean by engagement online. If students simply answer your question within a forum or participate based on the rubric guidelines, can we necessarily call that engagement or is it for the purpose of ascertaining that they are indeed doing the course (i.e. attendance or assessment). I guess I’m idealistic and hope that everyone simply wants to engage in these discussions because they are interested in the topic and are critically reflecting on what others are saying – Like you do in our coffee course!

      PS: I met someone who was doing a research on examining students’ brainwaves to gauge if they are engaged or learning in class so that teachers can intervene without assessment or observation (e.g. Participation in discussions). I think he mentioned having students put on a headgear. I’m not sure how feasible this is as well but I’m interested to see what happens to this research. Thanks for your comment as always Tom!

  3. The rubric provided for assessing online discussions is very helpful, I will definitely adapt and use it in the future. I don’t have much experience with online discussions, but I’m interested to learn more strategies for using them effectively. Recently, I did set up a discussion forum in advance of an intensive course that I taught. Before the teaching period, each student had to write at least one post, discussing a chosen piece of writing. Many of my students this would have been new to this type of posting, so I made sure to post an example myself early on, to model what I was looking for.

    The online forum didn’t really generate much commenting on other students’ posts, but it wasn’t really the core goal. But what I did find a useful teaching tool was being able to summarise some recurring points across the forum, and use them as the basis for our in class discussion. That was a good way to start discussions, as I think students could recognise their own contributions, and could draw connections with others’ as well.

    This was a pretty small class, and so it was an easy forum to monitor. I do wonder whether these online forums’ effectiveness increases or decreases with larger class sizes? Certainly the time needed to moderate and facilitate discussions with lots of students (say, up to 100 per course) is significant. How have others found this? Any tips or strategies for designing and facilitating large discussion groups online? Especially if they are an assessed/compulsory part of the course?

    1. Hi Kate, thanks for your comment. I recently helped a lecturer who is teaching an ethics course and even though it wasn’t an online forum he used (he does an open-ended questionnaire at the beginning of each class), he similarly utilised student responses to get in-class discussions going. They can be useful preamble to other activities. In terms of larger classes, you can perhaps think of breaking students’ up into groups and either assigning them to separate forums (and put in place some mechanism such as a rubric to encourage peer-to-peer interaction) or getting them to respond as group. There’s a wonderful activity in this book (page 59, end of Chapter 5) that helps students to get to know their group mates online through some “detective” work.

  4. Online forums in the LMS structure are bafflingly bad, and get stuck with the curse of being this 15 week ‘venue’. After 15 weeks, you’re booted from the venue, and any trace of your presence erased. So why invest social capital in getting the party underway, just to get it shutdown when it gets through the inital learning curves?

    Not only that, the LMS online chat per subject model means that some students have 4 separate chat centres to maintain, monitor, and then restart the next semester. Whereas a broader forum – and I’m old (Not TomW old, just Gandalf Old. Tom taught Gandalf in Intro, right mate?), I remember webforums, USENET, and even Geocities hosted guestbooks. Basically, meta conversational places that had threads, forums, and subreddits that meant once you’d invested an identity in the arena, you retained that arena identity across the different discussions.

    For me, to really get the chat forum going, I want there to be both the purposeful threads (this weeks class!) and the functional (Looking for Group thread) and the social (MIsc.Other.Party.Planner) so that people use the forum as a natural extension of themselves.

    Of course, having grown up on USENET, and at one point, being a third of the traffic on a particular newsgroup, I’m used to high volume engagements where there’s value. It’s just hard to get value when you boot up a fresh community every time. EVen here, it’s hard to thread today’s content with yesterday.

    So what do I want? An ANU central chat forum. Course based sub-threads that you enter/ exit by enrolment, open discussion areas, and a migration to the Alumni Forum when you’re done, so a digital Kambri precinct has inherent value as a place to chat.

    As for grading – I’m with Tom – if it matters, score it and reward it. If it doesn’t mattter, ask if it’s needed, or if the students have an alternate conversation channel you’re not required to maintain and monitor. If they do, let ’em go for it over there, and don’t eavesdrop. Otherwise, pick your online persona and tone, decide how much of your weekly life gets allocated to the forum patrols, and go at it naturally like you would any other comms channel. Because as the hosts, we set the tone, and when our tone is Academic Corporate (LImited and Protective)(TM), students get put off from the social aspect, and that part is critical to the forum having a value to them.

    Otherwise they’re just typing in notepad.

    Also, check if your student chat channels are displaying the ANU’s Copyright Voice of Doom, and Proclaiming This Shall Be Recorded FOREVER because that put a lot of students off using the video chat channels because they did not want to appear anything less than their curated self on these permanent recordings.

    1. Just thought I’d say that your comment reminded me of the article I shared: “The illusion offered by discussion forums is that they build community. And while certain kinds of communities can be built through regular posts and responses to those posts, these are communities of commentary, and not the kinds of communities that further online and hybrid learning. In a classroom, we work diligently to unify our students, to foster a supportive environment, and to encourage cooperation and collaboration. At their worst, discussion forums are less like classrooms and more like bus stops — each participant stopping by, saying a few words, and then going on their way. Whereas discussion forums are isolated, digital communities are dispersed, uncontained, and this allows them to be as rampant as we hope our online classes will be.”

      And despite being online, I think you are spot on in saying that we can and need to set a tone as hosts. I’m going to try and find a paper comparing different tonality in discussion forums and how they affected student response (please share one if you see it!). Thanks for your comment, Stephen.

  5. I personally prefer the class time discussions to online discussions. I think the online discussions could take up an enormous amount of time for the instructor particularly. I like to see the reactions of the students. If the pynare in front of me I can quickly work out what is clear and what is not.

  6. My main concern with Rovai’s rubric is the quantitative element. As Stephen and Tom mentioned, metrics don’t necessarily mean engagement.

    In offline discussions, I measure effectiveness by the quality, rather than quantity, of discussions. The person who only speaks once, but, in so doing, stimulates a thought-provoking discussion, has contributed more than the student who speaks a lot but without much substantive content. If anything, the latter is just wasting everyone’s time.

    I appreciate that tone is included. We routinely include tone in our discussion and participation criteria, and are surprised when students are surprised to see it. We have reached a generation that doesn’t seem to appreciate that how you say something can, often, be more important than what you say.

  7. I have assessed online discussion directly before along similar lines to the Rovai rubric. It is extremely time-consuming if you do it fairly, and not impressionistically. It also moves the formative nature of discussion as an educational (and professional academic) activity into a summative assessment area, and I’m not that keen on mixing the goals of these. So I think online discussion is worth doing but it does need an assessment component to make it happen in a way that is educational and sustained. The way I have got around this is by embedding discussion as a hurdle component in an assessment. For example, students have to post 5 times on a discussion thread that is relevant to an assignment topic. The assignment itself is what I assess for quality (not their posts), but they have to provide screenshots of their discussion contributions in an appendix. At a practical level, I’ve found that it is more efficient in big classes to get the students to compile their own posts and put it all together for me so I can see formative and summative assessment all together. It also means they are more inclined to see the point of the online discussion (i.e. it leads to a substantial work) and more inclined to think about what they post. It also ensures that they start thinking about the assignment topic by the forum close dates (one post due per week) and not the day before. I make it very clear from the outset that I am not assessing their written expression in the (formative) online discussion.

    1. Susy, I haven’t found the assessment of online discussion time-consuming. I skim through the postings each day, clicking on 0, 1 or 2. At the end of the week Moodle shows me the average. With peer assessment, this is even quicker, as I just get Moodle to sort the students by the weekly average, and then check the with very low and very high results. I then see if the others look plausible.

      I agree that the assignment is for more fine grained assessment. To that end I have used a grading scheme where the discussion does not count for more than a “Credit”.

      In my view, asking student to list their posts with the assignment is not useful. It is then too late to provide feedback to help with the assignment.

      1. Hi Tom,

        I didn’t explain it well, but there is plenty of interaction and feedback in the discussions from both peers and me. Just that they have to show they have submitted a certain number of posts/words, by the forum deadlines by including them in their final assignments as an appendix. That is just administrative so I don’t have to fish around in the forums and count words. They are welcome to use aspects of their posts in their final assignments. The point of the forum discussions is completely formative – they’re a place for experimentation and feedback with no penalty for misunderstandings etc in final grades.


        1. Susy, I find that unless there are marks attached, less than about 10% of my students participate.

          I have 80 students in a forum at the moment, and I expect about 90% will participate. I am reasonably sure most are only posting for the marks (the 10% not posting I will offer help to).

          I had to think long and hard about this approach, but concluded there is no shame in this. I am training professionals, and getting rewarded for the work you do is part of being a professional.

          ps: The Coffee Course format seems to work. Here we are weeks after the course officially finished, and we are still discussing, with no reward offered, not even a cup of coffee. 😉

  8. I have incorporated an online discussion forum into a course as a hurdle requirement. Each student only had to make three posts over the semester, plus one extra post for a specific task that I set during a week that we missed our lecture because of a public holiday. I don’t think that forums can or should replace face-to-face discussion – they exercise an entirely different set of skills. They do offer something else that is more difficult in a class, however – easy sharing of online content. I told students that their posts could be on anything related to the course. They could respond to a reading, pose a question or share a link to something related to the course content. I didn’t respond to posts, I just read them, and I didn’t find it terribly taxing with a class of about 75 students. The goal was just to have them thinking about the course content outside of contact hours. Many of them shared news items, blog posts and other online content which was relevant to the course. I thought it worked really well, because I could see how they were applying course theory to real world events, and they were able to share with each other directly rather than needing me as moderator, which would be the case in a class scenario. I would do this again and perhaps ask them to use it more for sharing and discussing online content.

  9. I really enjoyed the Padlet activity. I always loved to use images in my teaching so getting people to use images in online discussions is such a lovely idea! Both in coming up with your own image and explanation and looking at others’ images and explanations. This should be done more often! It reminds me of an activity when I was studying ‘Promoting Positive Learning Environments’ at UC, the tutor had a collection of images she had cut from magazines and she asked us to pick an image that represented how we want to support our students and asked us to take it away and write an explanation for homework. I really liked the exercise but it would have been very interesting to see what other people had chosen and why so Padlet would have been a perfect way to share these.

    1. Yay for Padlet! Yes I am a big fan of seeing into people’s daily lives, and I think this sort of activity helps to bring a sense of immediacy and intimacy into online teaching. I liked the images you posted a lot!!

  10. Schliephake and Vogel (2018) template on planning online discussions and Rovai (2007) discussion rubric are extremely helpful. I will certainly use them in planning and assessing any future online discussions. My experience with online discussion is limited, but I am very interested to learn more strategies to create and manage these discussions effectively. I convened a course on regional political economy in 2017 where I encouraged students to comment on weekly news events that I posted on Wattle. The activity was unsuccessful; the majority of students did not contribute to the discussion and many did not read the news articles. As others have discussed, assessing online discussion as part of the overall grade may be important to generate more engagement. I also have to admit that posting news article and asking students to comment on them is not the most interesting idea for poking students interests. In future sessions, I will use Schliephake and Vogel (2018) template to formulate a clear picture of what is sought for from the activity. I think the design of the discussion is as imperative as the content it displays for students. Would you have any tips on this beyond the template? How about designing discussions for a class of 45 or so students? Maybe creating smaller groups, say 5-10 students per group, could lead to better engagement between students and more constructive feedback from me as the convener.

    1. Hi Anas, really glad to hear that you found the templates helpful. When I had taught a course fully online, I had a similar experience, where I often had totally empty discussion forums even though it was the only way for students to communicate with each other – very challenging!

      Creating smaller groups can be a good solution to in larger classes, especially up into the hundreds of students. But I think for a size of 45 or thereabouts keeping them all together might be a good idea to get more people contributing and reading the conversation. I heard of a great strategy where students are assigned different, rotating roles in the discussion, which can get the students assisting in the facilitation and prompting of discussion for part of their participation/discussion grades. There were 3 or 4 or so roles each week like:
      – Questioner – posts questions and asks follow-up questions to other posts
      – Summariser – reads posts and writes a short summary of them
      – Connector – highlights connections between posts
      etc etc.
      I thought this was a good approach because it gave students something very specific to do for their “turn”. 🙂

      1. Hi Katie,
        we have used Persell, C. H. (2004). Using Focused Web-Based Discussions to Enhance Student Engagement and Deep Understanding. Teaching Sociology, 32(1), 61–78. https://doi.org/10.1177/0092055X0403200107 as a reference for exactly the approach of questions and discussion roles you have outlined. She uses the terms ‘staters, responders and integrators’.
        The article is a bit dated, but I think still useful to look at.

    2. Hi Anas, thank you for your feedback. I don’t think there is a ‘one size fits all’ solution, and even if a discussion forum / topic worked in one cohort, this is not to say that it will work in the next cohort. I think discussion forums, getting them started, keeping them going and getting people involved to want to contribute is extremely hard work. I recall from research on the Harvard online engagement algorithm based on social networking engagement for Perusall (https://perusall.com/) that a good group size for online interaction is somewhere between 20-30. Any less and you don’t get the diversity of opinions and any more it becomes cumbersome and unwieldy to follow strings of discussions around a topic. Having said that, however, you may want to try with the entire group and then create two subgroups that are assigned to deepen a discussion on one aspect or question or article pertaining to the overall topic and maybe follow a Socratic seminar style and then bring the subgroups back together.

      Are you going to assess the contributions?

  11. Hi Anas,

    Thanks for sharing your experiences with online discussions. It is so frustrating when students don’t participate and you can be left scratching your head as to why. That is why we set up the Planning template, as we realised there are so many factors that impact on a student’s participation. Similarly, what works one year may not work next time with a different cohort.

    We are so glad you find the Planning template useful, and appreciate your kind feedback. Getting a clear picture of the possible obstacles before you start, means you can at best avoid them completely, or at worst have a plan to address them and keep on track if/when they do occur.

    Assigning students a particular role, as Katie mentioned, can work well (e.g. initiator, facilitator, responder, summariser and evaluator), and help with teacher workload management. Setting up a practice forum may help to foster this peer engagement / sense of community so students understand the expectations before launching into a real one (depending on the cohort, some may need more practice than others).

    With clear guidelines and rules for engagement, splitting students into groups can significantly reduce the number of posts in a discussion forum, focusing instead on students collaborating and synthesising ideas to present their ideas as a group rather than individually. Assign a particular topic to each group and ask them to report their findings back to the whole group. This is especially useful when you have a large cohort.

    Purpose and alignment are key motivators for students, we hope the template helps to make these transparent.

    All the best with your teaching!

    Silvia & Kirsten

  12. For reasons that I can’t fully explain, given how much I enjoy the coffee course and reading everyone else’s posts, I have some kind of aversion to the idea of using online discussions in my class. However, Christina’s example of easy sharing of online content was much more of interest to me. As my students are often so engaged in the topics, they are often sending me podcasts and extra reading that I never have enough time to get through but am humbled by their enthusiasm. Perhaps this approach could both harness that interest, and be an interesting smaller piece of assessment. But interestingly the more I think about it the more I wonder if it would be fun to have students allocated a week in the semester when they have to bring a current or relevant news/content etc item to share (its like grown-up show and tell!!) and discuss with the class about the weeks topic. So perhaps my natural tendency is just a bit more face to face and I need to delve a bit deeper to reflect on my personal barriers to using online forums.

  13. I think that the distinction between participation/presence and real engagement is an important one. In my various experiences of (especially asynchronous) online discussions, I have observed that it can be somewhat difficult to generate fluid, organic discussions in which everyone can get involved. I think that a degree of spontaneity gets removed, and it can be harder for the facilitator to really probe into some of the issues raised. Compared to synchronous or in-person discussions, it feels like it is much more taxing for the facilitator to keep on top of the discussion and make sure it is geared towards the learning outcomes. Additionally, there are benefits in being able to see people who may have an idea but are finding it difficult to jump in, as the facilitator can help them seize an opportunity. I do see how online learning is increasingly becoming part of how we teach, but I am cautious about what we might lose there.

  14. I personally prefer face-to-face discussions or in the online world the synchronous discussions. However, I have to confess, doing this coffee course 1-2 years after everyone else, I appreciate that it is asynchronous. Reading day after day through the posts, I start to recognize the names but the Padlet activity at the start of today’s course, really made me feel connected to the others. I thought that this is a great way to learn a bit more about each other.
    I haven’t used online discussion before and right now with only one lecture per course time is limited. However, there are many tips out there – thanks Rebecca for all the resources, especially the template to help planning an online discussion. It looks like a great way to reflect and align with the course.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *