Online discussion often sucks. The prompts are answered best by the first few go-getting students, and everyone else can only agree. Or the prompt is designed to elicit opinion in order to prevent repetition, and devolves into the sharing of personal beliefs without much connection to the class. I’ve avoided the whole thing by making my forums focused on posting primary sources.
Then there’s the issue of where to put the discussion. One giant discussion board with many topics and multiple clicking? A discussion each week, where ideas are abandoned as the class moves on?
Having eliminated weekly discussion as being useless, I have been putting one main forum at the top of each class (called the Coffee House, or Pub, or Tavern, depending on the class). I ask them to post their introductions there at the beginning of the class, but since I don’t require it for a grade, hardly any one participates after the first few weeks. That’s not surprising – all the rest of the work is listed in a weekly block. Why should anyone go back to do anything at the top of the page?
Right now, the last weeks of class are upon us. In my modern US History classes, I decided to add a discussion of current events, to take place in the last week. Instead of creating a new forum, I just moved my Coffee House to the final week’s block.
Then it hit me – I could do that throughout the semester. Have one big board with topics, but add each topic when I move the forum to the weeks they belong. For example, the first week in US History is Reconstruction, but I don’t want a discussion in the first week, while they’re getting used to the class. But when we get to the next week, on The West, I have a question about victimization that makes for good discussion. I could add that at the beginning of that week, then keep pulling the forum down to the weeks where there’s really something do discuss. The forum would migrate according to the week’s topics.
Since I haven’t done this before, I might want to make it extra credit with an expectation to post, rather than a required element.
The advantage would be that all previous discussion would be available each time, and the tracking would be easy with only one forum. Might be a good idea…