eCourse: Discussion Guide

Discussion Guide

Image descriptionGilly Salmon, in her book eTivities, has proposed a 5 stage model of the type of interactions found in asynchronous learning environments. to learn more about each of the stages click on the diagram below. While there may be some developmental significance to these stages the experience of facilitating an online environment will be more complex. In the current environment of Online.APU you are likely to find some students who are taking their first course online while others have taken one or more courses online. The new students may go through some of this sequence while others are at stages 4 and 5 from the beginning. The importance is to be able to recognize the level of functioning of the students from the types of communication they are sending and responding appropriately.

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How to facilitate communictation in online discussions

There are many ways of conceptualizing communication. For the purpose of looking at online George Collison, et. al in Facilitating Online Learning, suggest three types of communication social, argumentative and pragmatic dialogue.

Social dialogue

One of the goals of an online class is to create a sense of community. When this is successfully taking place, you should expect to find social dialogue. These may include comments about the individuals personal and professional life spaces. Here you will likely find not only cognitive ideas but some emotional content. some of this type of communication is desirerable as a way of assuring that the content of the course is matching with the personal pattern recognition of the students. However, this type of socialization can get in the way of good scholarly reflective thinking.

It is most effective to shift this type of communication to a different area of the course. Setting up a discussion area under the Course Home. The discussion area should have a special name like Greetings at the Door or Water cooler so that certain comments can be easily directed to that area. Here the discussion can be purely social or can be about the course environment, processes or procedures.

Argumentative Dialogue

This type of dialogue is characterized by taking positions, carefully defining and defending that position. There is an assumption that there is one correct answer to an issue or question. While there is a place for such discussion and may even be the goal of some planned interaction, this type of discussion does not facilitate communication and learning in most threaded discussions.

Pragmatic Dialogue

In this type of discussion the participants are encouraged to explore new ideas and connection of know concepts in new combinations. Participants need to feel safe to put their ideas out there for others to see and respond to without fear of criticism.

There is a specific goal or task for the dialogue and a limited time frame for it's accomplishment.

Personal investment in ideas is relaxed in favor of a group investment in achieving progress or forward movement i=of the dialogue. A person's most firmly held ideas are open for discussion.

Given constraints of time and personal resources, many ideas cannot be pursued. . . . Participants actively facilitated by you the moderator, identify very attractive but potentially tangential or divergent ideas and concentrate instead on those that hold promise of yielding results that will add to achieving the goals of the collaboration.

VoiceToneCritical Thinking Strategies
Generative GuideNurturingSharpen focus
Conceptual FacilitatorCurious
Reflective guideHumorous Digging Deeper
Personal MuseAnalytical
Role playerInformal Neutral

Voice Tone and Thinking Strategies are similar to learning to speak. We all learn to make the same sounds at about the same time in our development. Language emerges without our having much awareness that we are learning to speak our given language. Our brain is able to learn very specific and intricate rules of our language. When we are older we are taught the rules that our brain has learned without our awareness. We are then told that when a word ends in the letter "e" the vowel makes a long sound. Our brain learned this rule without our awareness but now we understand the principle.

For faculty who are good communicators and practice these skills in face to face classes this may seem intuitive. The process of looking at these principles helps all of us be more deliberate in the online environment.

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