Discussion Goodness

So much cool stuff is going on right now in my asynchronous discussions, I simply must report! If you follow me, you know I worked this summer to redesign my discussions because I was not pleased with them: they were too text heavy, didn’t allow enough student independence, and didn’t emphasize practice in creating a historical thesis.

Discussion Design

What I’m doing is emphasizing the collection of primary sources during the first part of the week, then the construction of a thesis based on those sources, plus critique and summary at the end of the week.

I start with a visual prompt and instructions that tell them they should respond to it with either a comment or their own piece of evidence. I have linked to the FAQ that has instructions on how to insert an image, video or audio clip into the forum. They need to connect their source to the unit, and post their source between Sunday (the start of our week) and Wednesday midnight.

On Thursday I come in, and create a “Take discussion from here, please” post that presents the best theses from the previous week, mentions the evidence they’ve presented, and creates tasks for the last part of the week, depending on what day they happen to sign in:

This is working very well — my History of England class created a first week’s forum that looked like the art gallery I had tried to get them to create when I used the glossary:


And the result is the creation of theses based on the evidence they have submitted, a little critique and revision, and a summary of the week’s discussion for those who like to come at the end anyway.

An Occasional Survey

I am also using a quick survey occasionally to check something. For example, I asked about the contribution of Roman culture to English history:

My interpretation in lecture was that Roman occupation had contributed only things that were not long-lasting; this let me know how the students interpreted the unit.


I normally only use smiley faces and winks as emoticons in communicating with students. But last week, I had asked a couple of students to please go back to their evidence and cite it so we could see where it came from. They didn’t. I thought maybe it was not obvious in my post that I wanted them to — maybe they didn’t see it.

So I’m going to start using emoticons as symbols when I comment. Instead of writing “NOTE” or using bold or red text to highlight, I use a “thoughtful” emoticon:

Catches the eye, I think.

One thought to “Discussion Goodness”

  1. This is great, Lisa. I too am always on the hunt for ways to decrease the amount of text I use in assignments since they already get so much of it. This is such a wonderful way to allow them to create the content for the course as well. Very engaging.

    I too am using visual prompts on my Spanish 101 ning.com site as a springboard for their blog posts, and in another section, I’ve asked students to add cultural content to the site for commentary.

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