The role of the professor in discussion boards

By Samantha Fitch

This is less of a post that muses about teaching or blogging, and more of a question for those of you experienced online professors. In attempting to engage students, and particularly in attempting to attain an element of that near-impossible feeling of being a cohesive online group (as you would foster in a real classroom), I’ve been assigning some online discussion boards. I’ve already mentioned that, next time, I’ll try to implement even more student-involved and personalized elements, like video or group work. However, I am a bit perplexed as to the professor’s role in an online discussion board assignment. For example, I had been posting a response to a few students’ comments, when I particularly agreed or when I felt they were missing something that was key to their understanding. I also wanted them to know that I was reading along and paying attention. However, for this last discussion I only responded to students privately, when grading their response, because I really wanted the discussion to be student-centered. In doing that, I felt apprehensive that students wouldn’t see any comments from me on the board, and would then think that it wasn’t being closely read. So, what is the best role for the professor to take in these online discussions? How do we make it clear that we are closely following along, without making it seem like a teacher-led discussion? I want the students to be active and feel like the discussion is really between them and their classmates; in other words, I want them to write for each other, not for me. Maybe I could do an informal study of student responses with teacher comments and without!

1 thought on “The role of the professor in discussion boards

  1. I’ve had good luck this semester, but they are writing primarily about their own projects, out of their heads. There’s a high degree of sharing in my class (we watch each others’ videos) which created good bonds. It takes some trust to share in a DB, especially replying. I usually require replies to at least 2 classmates. I make a conscious decision whether to participate or not, depending on whether it feels like they could use stimulating. I pop in where it seems appropriate and grade privately. I definitely want them to know I read it all.
    I think the DB in Canvas could use major improvement design and function wise. I have a lot to say about the DBs. They were a great part of my online education, but they are still a long way from a real conversation.

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