I have posted the following the comments on discussion boards for my students. I also want to share the post here.
This course, and most Queens PME course, rely heavily on discussion forums, not only for grading but for the social construction of knowledge. So, let me share some ideas on how to make the most of your efforts in these discussion forums.
In a series of interviews on the experience of using discussion boards in these courses, some of your classmates and peers have made the following comments:
"The richest learning for me, has come out of those discussion boards and looking at other people's interpretations of things and talking to people about, or reading their experiences with varying things. And I've realized now that a lot of what I enjoy, a lot of my learning comes from is actually, from those discussion boards."
Many of the people I have interviewed found themselves actually somewhat surprised by the value they found in the discussion forums. For example, the following person described how the forum gave them the chance to really review the asynchronous discussion and think clearly about their own perspective on that particular issue before responding. The additional time offered by the asynchronous format allows for deeper reflection on the topic and stronger responses and understanding.
So, some of them I read two or three times, then I thought did I read this right? I didn’t respond right away, so I would read it first, step away and then come back. Sometimes I reread the notes before I responded because I thought, "I wanna get this right before my response to the person".
In other cases, people found that they were equally challenged by and benefited from providing answers to their classmates. They found that by thinking through the questions posed to them, they were able to clarify for themselves their own thoughts on the particular issue and then provide a meaningful response to their classmates.
"I think the big thing that helped me was reading other people's posts and trying to answer the questions that they had. So when I read someone else's, I actually connected and I had an answer for them. It made me feel very excited, because I was like, "Look, I'm helping this individual! I've experienced this and I've tried something and hey, here's what my experience has been."
One way to ensure that people take time to read your post so that you receive feedback on it and can initiate a conversation, is to take the time to format your post.
I think being aware of what it looks like when someone opens it, it's like when I hand an assignment to students that's a full page of just writing, I know that they're gonna look at it and go, "Yeah, no". I feel similarly with the discussion posts. I know there's a couple of times where I would open one and it was just a wall of text and I was like, "I don't know if I'm gonna read this one", and it wasn't due from merit.
Consider the following outline for creating your post and engaging in the forum.
To benefit from the discussion board environment and the chance for the social construction of knowledge, participants must both openly share their thoughts, and invite responses from others. Inviting responses includes paying attention to the responses.
As I have scanned the discussion forum posts over the past few years, I have noticed an important correlation between the number of comments a participant posts on others' posts, and the number of responses they receive to their own post. There are clear patterns that emerge just from the pattern of responses in the forum, without even opening up the posts. As a person comments on others' posts, those others then come to the initial respondent and comment on his or her post. In turn, this leads to greater feedback, interaction and transformation of that participant's knowledge resulting in excellent final projects.
I share a gentle reminder that you will will benefit much more from shorter, more frequent visits to the forums.
Finally, I also invite you to consider the community of inquiry as a model for online interactions.
Watch this video I have created and narrated on the Community of Inquiry