Discussion boards in online course

Let us begin with the highlight of the class this summer: the weekly discussion boards.

I want to move away from exam-oriented course syllabus. What difference would it make between merely knowing the names of several children of Zeus in Greek mythology, and delving deeper into the symbology of the myths then and now…? If we are proud of the gen-x (and the millennials too 😉 ), it is also OUR responsibility to develop a podium for discussion and churning of ideas rather than etching “A+B=C”, same for all formula!

This ideology meant that I break away from traditional assessments. However I am aware that sudden change shocks the system, and most of the time such change is labeled as rebellion,etc (yes, even for a seemingly small scale event as change in assessment methods). Hence, I adopted weekly discussion and held onto traditional multiple choice questions quiz with less percentage weight on the latter.

Marking scheme

The weekly discussion was scheduled for six weeks (in a seven week course). Each week had two designated “student reporters” from each group (of 10 students each). The task for these reporters was to summarize the weekly discussion and upload a 300-600 word report to the Dropbox by Sunday midnight. Other eight students of the group were expected to engage and discuss the course content from Monday to Friday. These posts would then be worked on and summarized by the student reporters over the weekend. In this arrangement, each person got a chance to fill in the role of a reporter and post their discussion blurb for five weeks our of six (sixth veering the reporting week).

The discussion post carried 10 marks each, amounting to 50marks. This comprised of 10% of the total grade (ie, 2% for each discussion post). The report on the other hand, meant more work of synthesis, report presentation, and precis writing. The report was thus scored out of 20 with 20% weight of the total grade for the course. Discussion and reporting comprised of 30% of the total grade.

Looking ahead, I would increase the weightage for each discussion post to incentivize deligent posting and make the guaranteed grade for the post if it reflects in the student reporter’s report for the week. It will help attain to main goals: 1) value for posting on time (abiding by the deadlines), 2) making these two aspects as co-dependent will ensure better grounding of these activities on class assignment level. These steps will help encourage group dialogue and coordination further.

Discussion prompts

I provided 3-4 questions on the course content each week to get the students to initiate a dialogue. The motive was to keep the wheels of thinking churning. Responding to a fellow group members’ post as mandir for the making scheme, was a thought that had crossed my mind. However, I wanted to steer clear of the dialogue that takes form as a result of some imposition. I think that the technique of free form dialogue was a great success (as many of the students responded).

The questions were typically open-ended, and peeped beyond the content posted in the course.

1. Reflect on the manner in which stories/myths are narrated. Use examples of your group member’s posts or posted material or the narratives you have heard (or narrated to you) growing up. Note the use of metaphors, details, elements of surprise, enboxment in story-telling.

2. From posted material on myths from Africa, note if the storytelling is similar/dissimilar than the myths from other continents that we have looked at. What are your thoughts on various versions of the Anansi story?

3. In a line or two, note your thoughts on the reading from this week (select pages from :- Smart, Ninian. 1996. Worldviews: Crosscultural…)

Each week followed a theme for the online discussion that progressed from gathering forget information on some topic, presenting initial opinions on the content to connecting the course content with some of the examples from the modern world.

The online discussions tied into the “translatable”, “relevant” and “discovery” aspects of learning processes.

These online group discussions also fostered a lively dialogue between the group members which was furthered in the peer-review assignment that I will elaborate in my next post.



Published by Kalemighty

Penned thoughts from South Asian culture. Follow for thoughts on Archaeology, Anthropology, and Pedagogy around the world

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