"Discussion Board" gradings

Discussion in 'Online & DL Teaching' started by me again, Mar 1, 2010.

  1. me again

    me again Well-Known Member

    Discussion boards are a bullchit waste of time. In my courses, I basically view them as extra credit projects where the students can get high grades for whatever they turn in, unless it's extraordinarily off-the-mark.
  2. mattbrent

    mattbrent Well-Known Member

    For sake of discussion :D what suggestions might you offer to incorporate traditional in-class discussions into a distance learning course?

  3. Alissa

    Alissa New Member

    I'm taking a couple courses at my local community college right now and they all require discussion boards. What I dislike about them is the repetitiveness. All the students will basically post the same response to the topic and then all agree with one another in the required replies. My Intro. Archaeology and World lit discussions are kinda boring and I don't really learn anything new from them, but my archaeology prof grades hard on discussion boards (No lists! No wikipedia!) which has improved the quality of discussion in that class.

    My Argumentation and Debate class, however, it is a little more interesting, because the topics of discussion are more provocative or polarizing. The discussions have never been heated, but I am happy to report that they are more educational than any of my other discussion boards. For example, last week's discussion was about milk: http://www.milkprocon.org/milkadvertising.htm which lead to some interesting comments. The week before that we discussed advertising: http://adbusters.org/metas/eco/bnd/ and consumerism: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ORr26_tBH-o I think it helps when the discussion topic presented inspires two or more points of view, leading to insight from people who do not share a point of view, and my classmates seem to participate more enthusiastically in that class. I'm stating the obvious here, but the "safe" topics presented in most of the discussions in which I have been a participant are what make the discussion boards boring and chore-like, imho.
  4. obecve

    obecve New Member

    I have taught a number of distance education course, blended courses and traditional courses. Even in traditional courses, I have found adding a discussion board increases class participation. People who do not speak in a taditional class are often more active on a discussion board. I think you have to set parameters (not repeating someone elses message, creating discussion questions that cause debate, requiring original thinking and commentary, etc.). It is subtantially more work for me as a professor, but if done right, the learning and participation in the course are increased significantly.
  5. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    I have experience in an utterly independent program where students don't collaborate, yet go lock-step through the program. The school set up discussion threads, but they're hardly used. I wonder if the school had taken a more active role if those threads would have been more used and useful.
  6. PhD2B

    PhD2B Dazed and Confused

    I agree! For one of the schools I teach for, I use the discussion board as a place where students can ask questions, get answers to questions, and discuss course related topics. I do not give credit for participation in the discussion boards because this should not be a graded event in my opinion. I am very responsive to questions and discussions so students do not feel alone when they post something. I make my classes as participative [or non-participative] as desired by individual students. My courses require a lot of work and I'll be the first to say that I am not here to waste anyone's time with BS discussion topics.
  7. MISin08

    MISin08 New Member

    I am currently enrolled in Operations Management via Independent Study at Colorado State U-Pueblo. For this class there are no required discussion postings, indeed, I have no idea how many other students are "in" the class. The grade is based on assignments related to the text (1-4 per chapter) and 4 exams. So far the professor has answered emails within 2-3 hours, and is reputed to turn grades around amazingly fast, so if I need explanation or amplification of the material, I am sure I can get it.

    I'm on my own pace, too. I like this, almost enough to wish I had more classes left :)

    One of the things that makes required discussion a non-value-add is that there's nearly always 1) several people who post generic responses because they are required to post something; 2) people who are sincere, but clearly are not in the same wing of the library, let alone on the same page as the rest of the class. These students usually don't improve during the term. If the instructor would correct these two groups, that might raise the level and the discussion could be more than busy work.

  8. obecve

    obecve New Member

    The instructor has to be fully involved and push the discussion. I call it a 360 degree debate. There are students who try to do the same old thing, or minimally participate, but I make the discussion board about 25% of the grade. I work it daily as the instructor. I set time lines and participate myself. It has to be worthwhile.
  9. scaredrain

    scaredrain Member

    I am currently an adjunct for 2 for profit and 1 non profit university. All three require discussion board questions. I hate the discussion boards at all 3 of them because they take out the flexibility and they have rules on what day the students have to make their first response by and one even has the rule where the students have to post every other day. I would love to set the grading of the discussion boards as minimally a s possible but all three universities have a grading requirement when it comes to the discussion boards. In my current doctorate class, as a student, I love what the professor has done with the discussion board. He literally said that he could care less about the discussion boards and that he would not be grading them, except to check if we responded to the question.
  10. consultco

    consultco New Member

    I did a master degree online, and thought I'd hate the discussion boards, but ended up enjoying them immensely. It is up to the instructor to moderate the board, respond to postings, and to set parameters. Those who do not do these things either have no interest in the subject, or in the students. Creating a lively discussion is an art, and many people do not have the capacity for it, but at the very least, there should be some rigor attached to the discipline of it.
  11. obecve

    obecve New Member

    There is a reason why instructors require a date for first posting. If it is not required, then everyone posts a single comment at the last minute, all the comments look the same and a true discussion never occurs. There is great flexibility in what you say and how your ideas are presented. There is great room for orignal thinking, debate and challenge. It is ultimately last minute response, poor preparation, lack of thoughtfulness and genuine participation that make discussion boards inneffective. It is the instructors role to push discussion, challenge students and make things happen on the board. I think a great deal of learning is lost if all people do is independently submit homework and take tests. Part of the collegial experience and the geometric increase in knowledge occur when many people share information and challenge ideas from all sides.
  12. scaredrain

    scaredrain Member

    I agree and disagree with this. The date serves to have effective first responses from the students but normally the required second or third responses are of poor quality. Because they will post the remaining required responses all on the same day.
  13. consultco

    consultco New Member

    If this is the case, there is a lack of leadership on the part of the instructor, and the tail is wagging the dog. The instructor decides how the game is played. If students are posting a second time on the same day, and it is not a quality posting, the instructor must establish a rule stating the second post is to occur later in the week. I was in a program where this was a requirement: for the first part of the week, one discussion question was to be responded to, and two responses to other posters were required. The second part of the week was essentially the same, but the question was different.
  14. scaredrain

    scaredrain Member

    Two of the universities where I am an adjunct, do not allow this, the instructor has to the university discussion board rules, so even if an instructor wants to do what you stated, they simply cannot do it.
  15. obecve

    obecve New Member

    This is why you require posting on more than one day...and you require that the postings be interactive and responsive to what is happening on the discussion board. I honestly cannot see how you can achieve a true depth of learning without the discussion board in an online class!
  16. Kaz

    Kaz New Member

    Hi! This is just my anecdotal 2¢, kind of a rant...

    A friend of mine was pursuing a business degree at Kaplan. The discussion groups were her number one complaint, for most of the reasons already mentioned but specifically because of boring, inane, repetitive posts. Another friend briefly went to UoP and wasn't thrilled with his fellow classmates' "group work" either.

    Almost all of my credits are from b&m schools (two different county colleges and a respected state school). Almost of my real life classroom discussions, what few there were, sucked. Invariably there was a lot of repetition and (my biggest groan :rolleyes:) people asking about stuff they were supposed to have read before class. In class group projects were sometimes fun, but only at a sightly higher rate than the discussions. This was usually due to actively doing something instead of just slouching there trying not to doze off during lecture, not because of "sharing" or whatever with your fellow classmates.

    I had the most interesting conversations with my fellow classmates when we would break for snacks during a summer/winter or Saturday class. I guess this reflects the fact that you can't "make" people be friends and have them enjoy it. They have to choose it on their own. The most consistent thing I learned? A LOT of the students who nailed exams and absolutely killed the curves had little to do with classroom discussions. In fact, a significant amount of them only came to class AT ALL because they didn't want to look bad in the eyes of the professor. I'd sit in the back of the class sometimes and just watch how many students had movies or whatever running on their laptops during lecture. This was in the classroom with the professor! :eek:

    Two of my most memorable and impressive professors not only didn't have discussion groups, they didn't even notice if you showed up to class or not. They were masters of their fields and had plenty of interesting stories that were engaging in their own right but also appropriately weaved in, out, around and through the material we were involved in. The one guy would go five minutes at a clip without even opening his eyes, lol! I remember a lot of their stories. I've had classes were we would have class-wide discussions every week. I barely remember anything anyone said during those.

    The most engaged and active students during discussions usually come off to me as busy-bodies, who may or may not actually understand what is being lectured on. Yes, definitely raise your hand and ask for clarification if you don't understand what just transpired. It's your right and that's what the professor is there for. But more times than not I've had to sit there while someone goes on and on after their question has been answered. Simply put, some people are talkers. And they will talk talk talk talk, etc. And 99% of it the rest of the class can surely do without. I had a great manager tell me once "Never mistake activity for accomplishment." I couldn't agree more.

    So I actually find it ironic that some online classes incorporate more discussion in an attempt to "legitimize" the delivery system by bringing it more in line with a traditional classroom setting. My traditional classroom experience:
    • ZERO attendance check after the first week
    • being able to pass any class just by "aceing" your midterm and final exams
    • half of the people bringing laptops to class surfing online during class using the school's omnipresent wi-fi connections or simply watching a DVD
    • the top students being bored stiff but still wanting to curry favor so they go through the motions of being part of the class
    • students who don't work at home and backhandedly try to get tutored during lecture until they are up-to-speed with everyone else

    ok. stepping of my bitchy soapbox now. :eek:
  17. Anthony Pina

    Anthony Pina Active Member

    In a survey of over 12,000 students done by EDUCAUSE a few years back, students rated discussion forums lower than any of the other tools and features of the learning managment system. The reasons for this are pretty obvious to me:

    1. Student value those parts of the system that provide the most convenience for them (viewing grades, instructor feedback, accessing instrucitonal content, etc.). Discussion boards are not a convenience, they are a chore.
    2. Most instructors use discussion boards badly, do not facilitate the discussions themsevles (leaving it up to the students) and provide them primarily as busywork.
    3. Although discussion forums can be used as part of many different teaching methods (role play, case study, debates, virtual field trips, guest speakers, etc.), most seem to fall back on asking boring end-of-chapter questions, with directions like "read all posts from each student and respond to at least two".

    In my own courses, I always have a "Student Lounge" forum for open communication and an "Ask the Instructor" forum for course questions. I only include discussion forums when they are necessary to the lesson's learning objective (consequently, most of my lesson do not have them). One of my challenges as Dean is to have my faculty understand that discussion forums are NOT required and when they are used, they should be used to enhance learning, not detract from it.
  18. consultco

    consultco New Member

    Instructors on the whole seem so disengaged with discussion boards, that it may be useful to use teaching assistants to moderate them. The assistants should be required to be involved at an active level, in which they bring about exchanges between participants. In this way, it becomes a discipline unto itself, with standards that can be assessed.
  19. Anthony Pina

    Anthony Pina Active Member

    Since many non-research institutions to do have teaching assistants, it might be more practical to have instructors facilitate online discussions as they would a face-to-face class discussion. It can be done well.
  20. AuditGuy

    AuditGuy Member

    my 2 cents

    I personally, require a small number (2-3) of weekly posts that are well contructed and researched by each student. I give zero credit for posts that simply agree with others or are "chatty". It took a while, but I have about a full page in the syllabus on what is good discussion versus bad. Almost impossible to grade without that guide and a detailed rubric that the students have also.

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