Implementing Remote Class Discussions

Online learning
Implementing an Interactive Class Discussion

Since in-person classes have come to a halt, it has become difficult to organize and run interactive activities like in-class discussions. We understand that this component is very important and sensitive for professors as they transition their courses online.

Professors want to ensure that they can deal with all of their students' concerns and questions in a timely and efficient manner.  Implementing an interactive online lesson and/or discussion forum can reduce the amount of personalized feedback or office hours professors will need to provide.

Discussion strategies include:

1. Instructor-designed questions

To keep discussions engaging include a mix of open and closed-ended comprehension questions where students are required to reason with themselves when investigating if questions can have a limited number of possible correct answers or if multiple strong answers can be generated [1].

2. Student-designed questions

In order for students to provide complex and insightful questions, giving students instructions or examples of the types of questions to generate discussions will be a helpful aid [1]. Generating questions can deepen student's learning by invoking a level of curiosity whether it be through identifying counter-arguments to their question or making connections to other topics through what's asked.

3. “Stand Where I Stand” Debate

This idea was adapted from Brookfield and Preskill where students are tasked to take an assigned reading on controversial topics with a basis of facts that act as evidence to argue a specific position. Based on the reading, the instructor-designed question will pose a debatable statement on the reading. Students will then need to create a debatable statement that reflects if they agreed or disagreed. In the discussion portion, students can read their peers' positions, provide feedback and have the opportunity to change their position. The outcome of a discussion like this will allow students to identify compelling arguments and see how different perspectives can affect their thinking. [1]

4.  Facilitate Q&A on Recorded Lecture Videos

Professors can also implement an interactive class discussion specifically based on pre-recorded lectures. Simply record your lecture/lesson with video or audio using any online recording tool of your choice. This can be valuable for STEM-related courses where students can take a learning-by-asking approach for challenging settings. While student helps their peers' by addressing their questions, it also encourages students to approach concepts in new perspectives.

While forums are most used to administer class-wide discussions, online peer review tools provide the perfect gateway to administer both the assignment and dicussion. Kritik allows professors to break down their activity so students can make submissions, receive feedback and give feedback on the comments received. For a Stand Where I Stand debate this is perfect for students to generate a response, evaluate other arguments and during the feedback-on-feedback sessions to see whether their position has changed or not. Rubric-based assessment for peer review not only allows student-to-student interaction but it reduces the need for professors to engage directly in discussions and rather moderate the process.

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Navinaa Sanmugavadivel
Education enthusiast