Implementing an interactive online discussion in class.
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 have to make a transition to the asynchronous manner of online teaching to complete their course material and carry out assessment as well.
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 communication between the students and the instructors is done through chat sessions, discussion forum and video chats. It reduces the amount of personalized feedback or office hours that the professors will need to provide.
Benefits of online discussion
There are a number of benefits of online discussion, even if conducted in a face to face course.
1. Work- Quality
The specified discussion topic is discussed about according to the expectations and requirements by the instructor. Students take time and reflect on their contribution to discussion before sending. It offers the students to expand their knowledge through more resources available online.
Usually in the on-campus lectures, when a student comes unprepared, the student is not able to contribute in the discussion. While the online discussion grants the student a benefit to prepare on spot by looking up information online.
3. Writing skill
When a students makes their contribution in the online discussion forum, it gives the student a time to reflect on their writing. This is opportunity to improve writing skill. Student posts and assignments, contributions can be run through plagiarism detectors to limit cheating and motivate the students to write their own thing.
4. Active management
As the instructor is also following the discussion, he is able to direct the students on the course content and address their misconceptions. If the instructors sees in the initial post that students need to learn something else, he may even start new threads.
5. Equal chances
Traditional classroom discussion does not allow an equal student engagement due to the limited time span. Students are able to contribute in the discussion thread at any time they are available. Other than that shy and timid students who are unable to find courage to speak up when every other extroverted student is participation, find it easy to participate in the in depth dialogue with other students.
6. Global connection
Online learning has served the purpose of bringing students together from across the globe. Their can be discussion between the discussion groups of different campuses of the same university or different universities as well. It gives a chance to learn about the cultural perspectives of students from different areas.
Best practices for online discussions
A number of facilitators are skeptical that it is not possible to replicate the value of face to face discussions with asynchronous discussions. The effective participation of students also depend on their degree level, while the students of masters are self motivates, the among the undergraduates efforts are to be made to make effective online discussions.
1. Have clear expectations
Explain your expectations regarding the number of posts, the number of replies, and the associated deadlines in the discussion prompt.
2. Make first discussions low stakes
Adjust the discussion by making the initial post something that only involve students experimenting with the use of the online discussion board. They may online introduce themselves at first. This is particularly helpful for students who are new to the online learning management system (LMS)
3. Clarify your role
The primary role of the instructor is to keep the discussion going on track by asking open ended discussion questions. He may present them with case studies for their e-learning experience. Regulation of interaction between the students by creating and ensuring the implementation of rules and policies related to the discussion board posts and replies.
4. Provide feedback
The instructor should provide positive feedbacks to the students to motivate them to contribute specially in the initial discussions in their online class.
Asking open ended questions for probing and facilitating critical thinking and discussions.
Encourage note taking in the online classroom as well.
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 .
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 . 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. 
4. Facilitate Q&A on recorded lecture videos
Professors can also implement an interactive class discussion in their online courses 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 discussion. 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.
- Parrish, G. (n.d.). Discussion Strategies. Retrieved from https://teachingcenter.wustl.edu/resources/active-learning/discussions/discussion-strategies/