Topics Map > Discussion > Initial Content Engagement
Activity Response - Description
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Online students often feel isolated from anyone who can share their immediate learning experiences. This is the reason one of the best practices for online courses recommends that a discussion forum focused on introductions is one of the first activities of any course to support the emotional component of learning (Boettcher & Conrad, 2016). This introductory discussion forum lays the foundation for student-to-student conversation, interaction, and support, creating a comfortable and trusting social presence (Garrison, Anderson & Arche, 2000). This type of discussion forum invites students to think about what they already might know about a new idea, concept, problem, or closely related concept (Boettcher, 2019).
Use it when you want...
- Students to become aware of what they already know.
- Students to become curious about the new knowledge to come.
- Instructors to develop insight into students' existing understanding.
- Identify a concept in a lecture, article, video, or a gap in knowledge identified through a prior activity (e.g., quiz or online discussion).
- Craft a question to which students will respond. The question should be complex enough to elect careful thought or reflection but not so difficult that the student would not yet have information to offer a response.
- Consider your expectations for the response pattern. Some options include assigning student pairs to respond to one another, developing a pattern for responders (such as responding to the student whose last name is alphabetically before your last name), small groups, or class-wide forums to which a student must post a response to a given post.
- Provide a discussion structure that will support the response pattern, such as groups or open forums.
- Develop and communicate expectations for the student responder. For example, the responder could comment on the accuracy of the initial post and the applicability of examples given, building upon the response by adding examples or making connections to other course topics.
- Introduce the activity by presenting the question to which students will respond and the expectations for responders
- Let students know how much time they have to complete the activity for the initial posting and response. Explain the kind of answers you want (words, phrases, or short sentences), how you will use the information, and when they can expect your feedback.
- Review postings and responses and assess the correctness and completeness of the information given.
- Provide feedback/grade based on the quality and applicability of the posts and responses.
- Debrief the results of the activity with the class, such as synthesizing the results or making connections between the discussion topic and previous or upcoming topics.