Momenta Learning

A blog on topics related to Elearning, online education, and instructional design.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Discussion Questions (week 3)

  1. How does teamwork in an online class change the course dynamics?
    The dynamics change because now the learning objectives become a common goal for the group as opposed to individually achieving the same goals. There is the added advantage that a group will pool the strengths of each individual member to make a more cohesive group, one individual would not have all the strengths that a group has. Plus the collaboration between individuals create a stronger bond that can last for a long time beyond the duration of the course.
  2. How do you prepare, help and facilitate learners to work in teams in an online course?
    What I have use in the past is an activity that the students complete at the beginning of the course. This can be in the form of answering some questions in the discussion forum or filling out a survey. The idea here is to collect data on why the students are taking the course, their motivation, which subjects they are interested in learning more, and maybe their backgrounds. Based on this, I created forums with subjects collected from this activity and the I invited students to join whichever they wanted. At this point I laid the rules for the forum and them let them work together on a project of their choosing. I would monitor the discussions to make sure they were making progress on their projects and would ask questions when necessary. I will try to use this same approach in my new course, but I will also add the progress presentation so that I can have a better idea of what they are doing.
  3. How do you move the community through the phases of learner engagement and evolving expectations?
    The first two weeks of the class are very crucial because this is the time when the student will decide that the class is worth the effort. How can we engage the student during this time? I think I can design a few activities such as posts answering questions about the material or questions from other students, or from the me, the instructor, that I would ask the students from time to time. Thus, it is very important that the activities in the beginning of the course are designed around interesting questions about the material and subjects being exposed in the lessons. One very useful tool is designing case scenarios where they can apply what they just learned. During this activities I expect the students will ask questions about the scenarios, which will add to the discussion. I think we can also add questions about some of the resources provided in the lesson, which hopefully will bring more questions from the students. At some point after the second week, it would be important to ask the students to start discussion sessions among them, I could be also monitor these sessions making sure they stay on topic.
  4. How do you use prompts to move discussion through the cognitive phases, of Triggering event > Exploration > Synthesis > Resolution?
    I think I would like my students to post initially what they are interested in the class, if I identify some that may not have a clear idea of what they would like to post, I will initiate the forum by explaining some of the key parts from the class structure. Then, for those who actually expressed an interest in some subject, I would provide another post with some key explanations and resources they could use to start exploring. Then I would start posting questions oriented towards applications of those subjects mentioned in the first postings and I will monitor the following week to assess the response from the students. I will try to keep the conversation towards the research they are doing at this point, I will post questions related to their findings to assess if they are actually doing research. Then in the following week I will post questions where they can apply what they have learned from the research process, case scenarios, examples, applications will help the students apply their new knowledge. Finally, I will ask them to propose new applications where they think their new knowledge would apply.
  5. How would you facilitate and guide students who are “lost or off track” to help them reach the stated course objectives and outcomes?
    The first thing I would do is arrange a one-on-one session with each student, either by webinar or by phone. I will ask them if they are aware that they have fallen behind the course, and then I will listen to the reasons they have fallen behind. Depending on the reasons for this, I will help them create a plan to move forward, they can start drafting a plan that suits them to catch up with the course. If they are not motivated by the course, I will ask them what was the reason that made them sign up in the first place, if they are finding the course not what they were expecting, I will write down their reasons and take note for future improvements, and then maybe leaving the course would be a better option for them. It might be that they are finding the material difficult to assimilate. In this case, I will develop supplemental material that will help them understand the material in the course.
  6. Discussion Forums
    1. What were the characteristics of online discussion posts that you thought were of exceptionally high quality?
      I think I can point out first to the characteristics around the format and layout areas. The best posts I have seen contain no grammatical errors (I wish I was that good), and you can tell that the author spent a deal of time going over different versions of the post until the right one finally came out (another thing I wish I could do better), also the post is easy to read because the author made sure the sentences were short and the paragraphs contain a few lines only. Regarding the layout, in the best posts there is always the issue being presented in the first lines, then come the supporting arguments and finally a way of conclusion showing why the author was either agreeing or disagreeing with the first post. Then finally, the best posts have the best content (references, supporting material like videos, links or images). The most important characteristic of them all is that the you can tell the author is not just vomiting words to fill out space, and I think anybody can tell a post with this issue, you can follow the author’s line of thought and understand instantly his/her position on the issue at hand.
    2. How would you create a discussion to elicit deep meaningful learning?
      The best way one can create such discussion (and I have seen it being used here) is to create a series of questions from the lesson content that the students may have not considered before. For example, we could look at a different point of view on the subject, other than the one presented in the material. Or we could pose a question in which we ask the students to think about a case in which the presented material would apply. Another type of question is to use a case that seems to contradict what was presented as the general case, we can ask what is wrong with the case and if it in fact derails all what was exposed in the lesson. My favorite one is when we can ask a question about what would happen if a rule, law, principle did not exist and how that would affect the presented cases or examples in the lessons.
    3. What criteria would you use in a rubric for assessing a discussion?
      I think the first one would be a minimum number of words, then I would add in the rubric an item for “were all the questions answered?”, if the post is related to an opinion I would add a criterion for the side of the issue they were on, especially if it was clear which side they were abrogating. Another criterion I would add is related to follow up to initial post so that a conversation is happening. Of course, another rubric would pertain to their attendance, if they just post once in awhile they should not be getting a grade for it.
  7. Live Interaction
    1. What are the benefits and limitations of emerging types of synchronous online learning?
      I think the best advantage of synchronous activities is that the instructor has close contact with the students, and if the instructor is willing to grant the microphone to the students, it add human touch to hear their voices. The students also get to know the instructor because he/she can make sure to use icebreaking introductions to ease the students in the session. The instructor also gets to present supplemental material not included in the lessons posted online. If the instructor also has a webcam, the students have the opportunity to meet the instructor in person, the same goes to the students who have a webcam. The limitations on the use of synchronous tools seem to fall on the technology side. If the student has bad internet connection, the experience can be frustrating. On the same topic, students that are not technology savvy will have difficulty using the technological tools used in synchronous learning. Another disadvantage of synchronous tools is that students may not have enough time to digest the material being conveyed, and collaboration from the will be limited because they have not had time to analyze the content.
    2. How can asynchronous and synchronous e-learning complement each other in learning online?
      In many cases it is related to how fast a response time the student needs while working on a class activity. Most of the lessons and content are posted for the student to review at their own pace, but then if they have questions or clarification in a particular subject, then the synchronous session will provide the opportunity to ask questions to the instructor. On the other hand, the student can send emails to the instructor, the instructor may decide that the answer will require a live explanation, in this case it makes sense to have a synchronous session to review the questions. In collaborative projects, the students may decide to use the discussion forum to keep updated on the progress, or they may decide to use a live session to have a more dynamic interaction. It seems to me that most of the activities in an online course can be made asynchronous one way or another, but the synchronous version may be adequate in some circumstances when the activity requires immediate feedback.


  1. Hi Julio,
    I liked your answer to 7b a lot, it clarified me the concepts very clearly. Thanks,

  2. Great point about the first two weeks being crucial. I think sometimes we almost have to "sell" the course or "sell" the potential for a worthwhile learning experience. Great point - and perhaps will make me rethink the structure of my course.

  3. I really liked your comments regarding the first two weeks of the course. Unfortunately, I feel like we have to sometimes "sell" the course - that it is a worthwhile learning experience. Will definitely make me rethink the structure of my course.


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