Each ACE course will include a discussion component. This an area where you, as the faculty member, really can teach and extend the content of the course. The goal of these discussions is to foster a collaborative and interactive experience for students and allow for students to learn from each other. The information that follows is provided to support our faculty members in these discussions.
Facilitating Asynchronous Discussions
Asynchronous discussion via a “discussion board” is a common feature of online courses. An online discussion is not fixed in time or space: students can log on at any time to seek clarification for issues they encounter in their coursework, to discuss topics raised in class, or to initiate new discussions on related topics. A successful online discussion has the same synergistic effect of group or in-class discussion, in which students build on one another’s perspectives to gain a deeper understanding of the materials.
Research indicates student learning is enhanced when faculty establish a social presence in a course, typically through discussion board communication. In fact, our student surveys suggest a very strong correlation between the number of weekly discussions participated in by the faculty member and the students’ rating of the quality of a faculty member’s participation: the more discussions per week, the higher the teacher rating. These discussions provide students with a safe environment in which to interact with their colleagues and with the faculty. By providing some input into the discussions, faculty become better acquainted with students and provide valuable insight.
ACE courses offer four discussion options: Weekly Discussion Boards, The Getting to Know You Board, The Q & A Board, The Coffee Chat Board.
Weekly Discussion Boards are learning environments where students collaborate with classmates, challenge their thinking, expand on ideas, and gain an in-depth understanding of the content they are studying. Each Weekly Discussion Board includes a discussion prompt that is aligned to the course objectives for the week. Students respond to these prompts, allowing them to make connections to what they are learning that week. It is very important for you to pay special attention to what is being discussed and the tone the discussion takes.
Frequency of Posts
To ensure a meaningful exchange, faculty are expected to post at minimum three to five times per week. Please know that your posts are expected to extend the conversation and learning on these boards (a “good job” would not be counted as a post). The rubric for grading the discussion boards focuses primarily on the quality of student engagement which is enhanced through your participation as a faculty member. Though it’s important to complete the required number of posts, it is equally important to ensure students are guided in their thinking about the content.
Student Directions for writing effective discussion board posts:
- Stay on topic. Do not digress or diverge.
- Enhance the quality of the professional discussion by introducing resources, sharing experiences, or expanding beyond the content already provided.
- Consider what is useful in the information being shared and how it is similar to and different from your own knowledge base and experiences.
- Be respectful of others’ ideas and comments.
- Choose words carefully and consider how other readers might interpret them.
- Proofread your response before posting.
- Reference your multimedia presentations, readings, and other course resources when appropriate.
- Use a professional tone as this is a scholarly exchange. Other boards, such as the Coffee Chat, are available for more informal and personal sharing.
These are also good reminders for faculty to follow as a professional stance includes quality writing and a consistent presence on the discussion board.
The “Getting to Know You” discussion boards are valuable for establishing the learning community as it is open to all participants, where all voices are welcome. Taking the time to say hello to each other makes a difference in later discussions. Faculty members should introduce themselves on this board and respond to students to welcome them to the course.
The Q&A Board is a place where students can ask general questions not necessarily related to course content. These discussions may include students asking questions about course navigation or other issues of interest between students in a cohort. You should monitor this board and provide answers as needed. The expectation is that all students will read the questions and answers, so each question is not coming to you individually via email. Students use the same Q&A board for the entire course. Faculty members need to monitor this board and respond to any student questions within 24 hours.
The Coffee Chat Board
The Coffee Chat board is the more informal communication tool in which students can post quick notes to each other. Faculty members should monitor this board but are not required to engage in this space. Communications in this forum tend to be shorter and more casual. In the Coffee Chat area students are able to participate as follows:
- Meet and greet each other.
- Socialize and create community among the group.
- Participate in networking.