Creating quality online instruction is a challenging task for most online instructors, with promoting engaging online discussions being the most difficult part of the instruction. Instructors frequently struggle with creating online discussions that will promote “critical thinking skills” (Toledo, 2006, p. 150) in an asynchronous environment instead of simply presenting dead-end questions that go nowhere. This article will review several suggested variances in online discussions that allow engaged critical thinking, promote subject matter understanding along with group member and individual online discussion participation, and assist instructors in choosing appropriate methods for their particular instructional goals.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Online Learning: Can be quite varied in their overall approach to the teaching and learning process, but they often have certain characteristics in common. In most online courses, students use a computer to connect to a course site on the World Wide Web.
Symposium Discussion: Progression through phases of a subject by expert speakers who provide concise, short speeches on their part of subject.
Experience Discussion: Groups (small or large) who review and discuss a subject such as a book, movie, writings, or experience.
Panel Discussion: A leader and a limited selection of participants have a discussion in a conversational format after which the larger group later joins.
Debate Discussion: Pro and con discussion presented by teams on opposite sides of a subject with the objective of swaying the audience.
Scalability: Frequently used as a magic incantation to indicate that something is badly designed or broken. Often you hear in a discussion “but that doesn’t scale” as the magical word to end an argument. This is often an indication that developers are running into situations where the architecture of their system limits their ability to grow their service. If scalability is used in a positive sense it is in general to indicate a desired property, as in “our platform needs good scalability.”
Web Forum: A facility on the Internet for holding discussions, or the Web application software used to provide the facility. A sense of virtual community often develops around forums that have regular users. Technology, computer games, and politics are popular areas for forum themes, but there are forums for a huge number of different topics.