Learning Communities – OLC
We dove right in this week and covered a course aspect I feel needs improvement in my online courses – building learning community. My courses all use a discussion forum to allow students to communicate with each other about the problem set assignment. I used to have issues with posts and replies not meeting my expectation content-wise, but a few semesters ago I created a discussion forum rubric that gave examples of full / half / no credit posts and detailed what characteristics I wanted to see. That document has significantly improved the quality of discussion forum posts.
However, I still do not feel like the students are building any sort of community. They come to the discussion to complete what they must for their grade. And I understand that; I recognize they are putting in effort. I feel like the current structure does not do enough to promote creating relationships. In my in-person course, teams really bond, but those students are spending 3 hours per week for 15 weeks working together synchronously. I want to somehow transform the online experience to be more like that.
We are going to start working on course design in a couple of weeks, and I’m wondering if changing the structure of the discussion forum might help. Right now, it’s completely open ended. There are no prompts or specific questions the students must answer. They just use it as a space for question and answer about the assignment. I’m mulling over some edits I could make to move some of the problem set questions (the synthesis ones) to the discussion forum. But I need more time to work out how this will look.