I have been experimenting with using the online D2L Discussion tool to meet the STSE expectations in both my Blended Learning and eLearning courses.  With all of the discussion forums, beforehand students are given some suggested reading from the course text or web articles, pages, etc. to give them background information and as a starting point for their research.  Usually students have between one and two weeks to complete the discussion assignment in its entirety, but this depends on the number of questions and other factors.  Some class time is given, but students are expected to post on their own time as well. 

In D2L it is possible now to divide the class into groups so that students only see posts from 3 or 4 other classmates, instead of being overwhelmed with the number of posts in an entire class.  This is much more manageable for the students and for myself as I am able to follow each group's discussion more easily.

DISCUSSION CRITERIA  -we discuss criteria in class and come up with some 'norms' for an online discussion.  The criteria below is fairly common for all classes.

Answers and Responses…  

  • Are thoughtful and analyze the content or question asked.
  • Make connections to the suggested readings and/or other articles, with specific references made, give sources of information.
  • Extend discussions already taking place or pose new possibilities or opinions not previously voiced.  
  • Include evidence for opinions.
  • Show a genuine understanding and concern regarding the problem being discussed.
  • Are in full sentence and paragraph form with explanations.  
  • Do not insult or belittle others and are appropriate in a school environment or for any assignment that would be submitted.
  • Are each not more than about 150 words. 

Once the discussion is completed, students are asked to complete an online five question self-assessment quiz regarding the student's own participation in the online discussion.  The questions were involved in a multiple choice format with points for each response to generate a score.  Attached are files with the online discussion questions/assignments I have used for various senior university level courses.  There also is a file with the online self-assessment quiz.

 

Recently I also had students complete a brief video presentation summarizing their research and discussion for their group.  Here is a video of one of my students explaining her groups research for the VOC Discussion Assignment.       

Sammys VOC Video

   

Overall I find that using the online discussions is an excellent way to meet STSE expectations in my science courses.  Students enjoy the online environment and the use of the discussion tool in D2L.  I also find for me it is a very 'time-efficient' approach.

READ MORE