Tag Archives: Blended Learning

Challenges of Facilitating Online Discussion

exchange-of-ideas-222789_640The most important function of an online facilitator is making comments on discussions. Discussions are not like a checkmark on a paper. Online teachers need to be thoughtful in responses. It is important to engage with students, but not every student all the time. Online educators need to provide them with opportunities to work things out together. The role of the online teacher is to guide the conversations gently by engaging with students and bringing in antidote, and should end posts with thought provoking questions. Another technique is to summarize many posts while choosing some elements of everyone’s posts. This little step celebrates good writing and lets the student know he/she has made impactful statements in his/her discussions.

Of the “roles” of a facilitator (pedagogical, social, managerial and technical) the social roll, I feel, is most important. The student needs to feel like the work is essential to the learning process. If there is a social expectation, then the student will be motivated to do the assignment more than just turning in a paper. The online teacher is not the conveyor of information or “guide on the side”. He/she is the guide to the information. Teachers should not try to be the “expert” as much as a co-learner, one that assimilates information in real time from the perspective of a student. There may be no right answer.

I imagine that at some point discussions could have problems. For example, perhaps at some point the discussion goes the wrong way. Students might try to take advantage and test out the teacher and make general comments based on the discussion but not incorporate the reading. If students miss the point, and try to get out of doing the readings, they might not get the full experience.

In the online article, “Tips for Overcoming Online Discussion Board Challenges”, Errol Sull offers some great tips to help me with my anxieties for working the discussions. These include:

Challenge Solution
conflict in the discussion be an active presence
personal attack or bullying active intervention, single out only positive comments, contact via PM or email
students who do not contribute to discussions pick some of their positive posts to include in summaries or news items, PM or email
plagiarizing other students’ work contact student PM or email, do not leave unnoticed
off track discussions constantly monitor discussions, acknowledge “students’ zeal and excitement” (Sull, 2012) but remind them they are to master the topic
students offering weak posts choose weak posts and show how they can be expanded

I’m excited to teach online next year. I feel like I am going to be reading all discussions, responding to everyone’s posts, and letting VHS consume my life because I really want to be impactful with my teaching. I’m sure that with time I will learn how to regulate that. As with everything we do, experience matters.


Tips for Overcoming Online Discussion Board Challenges, September 2012. Retrieved on May 20th, 2015 from  Facultyfocus.com:

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The Blended Digital Project-Based Learning Model: Playing the Game

20060623-3_p062306pm-0169-515hIn an  keynote speech at TIE 2013, Sylvia Martinez illustrated project-based learning by comparing how sports are learned. From early days of t-ball and little league, the game is still played with the same root structure as the grown-up game of baseball. Parents have come together to develop an experience that is similar in structure as the major league game is played today. This modified experience is indeed a project-based example of how we could structure our lessons. Students need to feel the big picture in order to deepen their understanding of concepts we teach them and help them to understand. Through project-based learning, students learn from investigative experiences in the class or lesson and apply them to the world outside of their classroom. Many creative thinking skills are used by allowing students to find ways to solve a problem

Traditionally math, science, english and social studies are taught in isolation. With project-based learning, the hope is to engage students with real life scenarios where all subjects are taught in a seamless concert of diverse learning. Combining these skills while maintaining a vision, goal, product will enhance and deepen understanding.

Now blend it up in a digital world and what do you have? The blended model allows students to tinker with concepts online through creative tools. They develop a larger picture and find purpose in their learning. They can make mistakes and “undo” them. It is an intuitive approach that enables learning to be fluid in a larger class size.

While teaching the project-based model with the blended model, applications and web tools, personal learning and content creation all need to flow together.  I’m looking for that perfect blended model which will help my students explore at their various levels of learning. For years I have looked to aggregate content for my students in my computer lab. My content involves teaching of computer applications and online applications. I’ve been using this blended learning approach for many years. I’ve found that my curation of content has become dated. For example, as MS Office changed versions, my video tutorials began to show their ages. I found myself trying to recreate videos every year. I need a platform which contains video tutorials which modify with the changing technology. I look to universities, Youtube and more, but rarely anything that is uniformly presented.

I’ve sampled many pay-wall online sites including AtomicLearning and Lynda.com.  I may consider these, however they are costly and I would like to find low cost/free alternatives. Today I visited two more vendors which are blended learning content providers. They are all offering curriculum and content for online/blended learning. A lot of product design has gone into these. Fresh content is updated each year. It is a text book in a digital from. I’m interested in a platform that comes with curriculum. It has to guide the learning in how to do various steps in an application but be project-based as well. Currently I built my units around a business simulation. While the project is engaging and promotes problem solving, the tutorials continuously need updating and replacement in my digital online learning management system (LMS). I’d like to find something that includes project-based instruction.

It will be interesting to see how these content companies compare as I research them further. I’m looking for ideas and suggestions from other educators who teach applications. Please comment with ideas.

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