Creative Use of Discussions

Considering that discussions are the primary medium of online learning and interaction, (this has been the case in our master's program), it should be worthwhile to see how to make the most of them. One innovation I learned about as a result of our master's is the collaborative learning experience. I wonder how many other innovative approaches exist or will be revealed?

Does anyone have any thoughts regarding the following?

How will  the use and management of discussions evolve over time?

 How can the use of this forum be maximized?

What outcomes are expected from discussions? How do we achieve them?

Are there studies on this?

What are some innovative ideas for discussions?

What ideas are online teachers using?

Also: Is there another approach to delivering online learning in which the discussion medium is minimally used?

Thanks for your reply,

Variety of Articles

Since many of my fellow students have already discussed the three aspects of distance learning: sole responsibility, mixed mode and consortia, I am going to discuss some other aspects of our readings.

This group of articles brought much new information as well as points of view I have not yet seen discussed in any other class: award winning online courses and negative aspects of developing online courses which much be dealt with.

My favorite article is "Online Education: New Paradigms for Learning and Teaching" which discusses online courses that won awards from the Paul Allen Foundation of Virtual Education. I was not aware of this foundation . I visited the Paul Allen site ( the Online Education: New was not working.) to see discussion of online courses. . Unfortunately there are no direct links to the courses from this article but I did find a few.   Here is a link to the syllabus of one a French course:

I particularly liked the way the courses given awards were divided into different categories - a major one being courses developed by individual instructors and institutions.

On another note, "Walking the line: Rectifying Institutional Goals with Student Realities" discusses institutions enthusiasm for promoting distance learning and their neglect to recognize that there is a large student body that seems ready to participate but is really not. The author, Derek Maus, discusses, among his points, that some of what is attractive about  distance learning (use of fancy technology) does not really help promote learning. He also make a strong case that the younger student may appear to know a lot about using the computer but still should be required to take a computer competency course, or test out, in order to participate in a distance learning course. The institutions overstate the young person's computer ability in an effort to quickly enroll these students in courses. When this is done, problems occur for both the student and the instructor because now energy must be directed to get the student "technology able" to participate in the course.

The other articles presented a number of interesting institutional related discussions such as universities using underpaid contract instructors in order to save money and how it is impacting the future of higher education.

Education moving as fast as technology
This well-written, to the point article published by the Software and Information Association, examines a multitude of points on the current trends in education as it relates to distance learning. I have listed the ideas described in the article. The article really presents the speed and depth in which technology and distance education is influencing education in the present and near future. It is an excellent article to reference.

"Technology presence is permeating the learning environment. Instructional technologies are encouraging innovative education goals, structures, policies and practices and helping redefine education" (Redefining Education)

Ideas presented:
  • From Technology Adoption to Educational Innovation
  • Education and Training
  • Personalized Learning.
  • Instructional Management
  • Distributed Learning.
  • Enhanced Communications
  • Collaboration - Economic factors among publishers involved in E-Learning
  • 21st Century Skills
  • Life-Long Learning.
  • Equity & Access.
  • R&D
  • Accessibility.

Technology is hard to impossible to keep up with. Education using technology is moving into that same realm. Ideally it would be wonderful to have many of these progressive concepts embraced by the establishment. However, how difficult is it for IT people to keep up with current technology? Answer: Just about impossible. How difficult is it for educators to keep up with current computer technology? Answer: Impossible (many will never even try.)


Education moving as fast as technology II

Technology can be great, but so can seeing a student know how to do the times table. Too many young teachers think that technology will be the answer. I think it opens the door to tremendous resources. However the basics still can and should be accomplished with a pencil and paper. Too many kids can't multiply or divide or check for spelling or grammar without a computer. This holds them back from getting into higher level reasoning.

Also, the computer does not solve discipline problems in the classroom. Discipline, learning problems and all the rest bring a teacher into the world of saying "I can't wait to retire." I am not in that boat, but I have not been teaching for 25 years either.

Participation question? Forum for discussing general questions?
Hi Janet and Yin,

I wonder if there is or will be an area to discuss general questions/concepts as we progress through the course?
In an effort to become a better teacher, I would like to bring up various topics and read the responses of my instructor and my classmates (some who are already teaching online.)

  1. Here is a topic I am interested in bringing up which concerns participating in courses:
  • How many hours each week should a student expect to be working in this
    (or any) online course?

  • How is this determined?

  • How is the workload related to these hours determined and gauged?

  1. This looks a really good course. I am happy to see how well it is planned and structured. I am pleased to see our instructor's expectation for discussion, "Make an original, spell/grammar checked posting of 100-250 words with citations from your chosen readings." This seems to be practical and effective. I hope fellow students will follow these guidelines in their discussions. I plan to. There is only a limited amount of reading and writing that a student can be expected to process at a high level of cognition.

I think our studies should promote and reward writing succinctly in discussions. Studying how to write in a terse and concise style would even be a good adjunct to our course work.  The following is a quote taken from
How to Write
(Herbert and Jill Meyer, 1994.)

We are in the midst of a writing revolution. The combination of today's computers and the word processing software they run has virtually eliminated the physical drudgery of creating text...The result of this revolution is an exponential increase--an explosion, really--in the total volume of new text being created. Today more people are communicating more ideas, and more information, than ever before in history...More than ever before, a writer must help his or her reader by making that reader's job easier--by writing so clearly, and so concisely, that with the least possible effort the reader can understand what ever the writer is trying to say.

Re: April 7 Week - Reading assignments

I am still not clear what the assignment for this week is. Since we already made our primary post to discussion board in Lesson One, are we supposed to spend the remainder of the week responding to these posts and reading? Did I miss something else?


Saving in Blackboard - Copy of Course

I have been saving copies from Bb, of each course I have taken, by copying and pasting into Microsoft Word.

Anyone have a suggestion for an alternate way to save Bb data?

Question Regarding Interview

I am going to try and interview my public school superintendent
. I will try to use this moment as a chance to show some of the work I have been doing on a course and program web site. I will ask if my superintendent has an interest in implementing an online program, and if so, why. If they have no interest, I will carefully ask why?  As I stated in another thread, I am not interested in doing anything to shake things up and possibly jeopardize my job: make an argument to incorporate distance learning or give them an unsolicited lesson on what distance learning is. If I can get the interview, it will make for an interesting paper.

But what if I can't get an interview with a key person within my school. Any suggestions for an alternate person to interview: fellow teacher?  My principal has indicated to have no interest in any major program changes - no funding and enough to do keeping up with the increased student loads. (I am not about to volunteer to increase my student load and not charge for creating a custom course management system.)



Best Practices Discussion  
Keith had a great discussion idea! Let's run with it. We'll start off with his question/comment. Add others that you think of, please! We'll keep the "Chatting Corner" for fun stuff!

PS I reposted everything in what I hope is a semi-sensible order. Please participate if you're interested in these topics--these are useful and practical topics! Participation in this forum will NOT be included in your grade, however, so don't feel compelled to post here.

Thanks Janet, for the acknowledgement.

Janet, I appreciate you mentioning my suggestion to open up an additional discussion area. Many other instructors would never think to do this. I am a 55 year old teacher and I still appreciate positive feedback from my teacher. It is encouraging to have you for an instructor and it is an example of excellence in teaching. I wouldn't be offended if you remove my name and just leave the discussion area available:)

More Question to Experienced Teachers

1. How do you deal with students who are under-participating?

2. In the world of writing (as opposed to oral), how do you deal with students who complain, are negative, threatening. In a F2F class you can have a casual conversation and hopefully take care of it. But online, it seems like there is a tape recorder going, just waiting for someone to say the wrong thing. What does the administration say about this subject.

I really am trying to save myself from learning the hard way (if it is possible.)

Marking, grading and returning papers

After six of these master's courses, the only papers I had returned to me with comments were those in Dr. Jodi's Education Research class, (and this was prior to turning in the final paper which was not returned with comments.) How does the experienced teacher deal with returning papers to students with comments in this online environment. In F2F, it is easy to point out and discuss aspects of a paper. In online, it seems like it is more difficult. Is this why none of the other teachers return papers with responses?

It seems like an additional obstacle to have to insert comments using Word's "Track Changes" feature.
Thanks very much for your response.

Pay for Online Teaching?

I am wondering what the pay ranges for doing online teaching? Obviously there are many factors, but can anyone come up with some figures: Hourly Pay, Contract for a Semester, Fulltime, Benefits?

Thanks, I really appreciate your input.

Corporate List of Vendors Providing Distance Learning

In our Unit Two reading resources, there is a link to an article named Learning Circuits. The article presents recent news in e-learning. Presented is a huge list of corporate providers of distance learning. I believe I will be contacting some of these companies in the future regarding some kind of employment.
Some of the companies:
Element K
Sylvan Learning
EDT Learning

Here is link to article:

Janet's Teaching Style

I want to state that I appreciate the teaching style and approach our instructor, Janet, uses in our class. I (we) have taken some courses where the instructor required, what I call, excessive participation in discussions and doing many, many time consuming projects. The result of doing all these activities was a blur of work and stress. I felt like I was not being treated like the adult student I am. I can't say I learned much from that approach. In fact, I began to get those old feelings of disliking school and particularly some teachers.

Janet's approach is different than that. It has not demanded endless commentary in discussions. Our course seems more like a F2F college course where students are given reading assignments, attend lectures and do one or two projects. But the online aspect of the course includes discussion and interaction, which enhances the learning beyond F2F.

I appreciate being treated like an adult and be given the opportunity to get my money's worth out of the course: to take responsibility for my own learning, do the readings, actively participate in projects, do a reasonable amount of posting to the discussions and stay within the guidelines of the course in order to receive my grade.

I am glad I experienced this approach to online teaching.

High School Professional Development
CA Public High School Professional Development

I am going to describe the professional development program for new teachers in my school district.
(Keith - relatively new teacher)

In summary, 99% of a CA Teacher's professional development is paid for and obtained directly by the teacher.  

  • The teacher is required to have completed a college degree /course of study that leads to a CA Preliminary Teaching Certificate. This includes Education courses and Student Teaching.

  • Within five years of starting teaching:

    • The teacher is required to pay for and take 45 Upper Level Credits (equivalent to a master's degree.)

    • The teacher is required to pay for and take additional courses in teaching Reading, Students with Disabilities, Computer Basics and possibly a subject matter competency course.

  • When a teacher achieves a Lifetime Certification, he or she is still required to participate in a certain number of hours of continuing education / self-development courses. In some cases the cost for these courses are reimbursed. The course content can be anything from computers to an art class to attending vendor presentations.

This is what the school district supplies. Note; they do also supply a job which I am thankful for.

  • The teacher is assigned for two years,  a mentor (experienced teacher ),  who observes and gives support to the teacher. This happen about once every two months.

  • Teacher is given a $200.00 allowance to purchase software or equipment to use with his or her student.

  • Teacher is given $200.00 to observe other programs or attend an educational conference.

  • Teachers are required to attend a number of educational group sessions. Every session I have seen is where courseware vendors and vendors of services make presentations.

I forget what a college degree costs but I (we) are all familiar with the cost of the master's degree plus the other courses. As I stated, the teacher pays for  and implements  99% of their professional development.

On another point, Betts made a remarkable observation in her paper: "Faculty members who are not involved in the tenure and promotion process are more likely to participate in distance education than faculty members with less experience in higher education and/or faculty members vying for tenure. I believe this statement can be applied to public school teachers. However, take out the words distance education and replace them with professional development. In my opinion, many teachers (not all), upon achieving tenure, end their quest for professional development and act as an apathetic yet effective obstacle to others who want to improve and make positive changes. This may be in part, why revelations in education made 100 years ago have still not been implemented.


Best Article Yet - Computing Our Way to Educational Reform

Of all the articles I have read in our master's program, Computing Our Way to Educational Reform by Paul Starr, impresses me the most. I appreciate the perspective he presents regarding the impact of technology upon learning. He states," In 1913, Thomas Edison predicted that books would "soon be obsolete in the schools" because of motion pictures."

He successfully describes what effect the computer has had upon education, concluding that it has been very little. However, with the ability for our present-day computers to display multimedia, he shows how this form of media will truly have an impact upon education & learning.

Heald College Rejects the Online Model
I am a former Heald College instructor.

I taught at Heald for a few years and witnessed the evolution of online teaching within the institution. Heald is a very successful business college with about 15 locations. They have a student body of thousands of students. They teach technology and business courses. Students are primarily working adults. (According to current studies, working adults are a prime target market for online learning.)

Heald introduced online teaching and incorporated the use of a Blackboard CMS. They had a few instructors convert F2f courses to online. Most of these instructors had little or no experience with online learning or teaching. Heald also ran training seminars to teach instructors how to use Blackboard.

After about three years of offering online courses Heald decided to drop the whole online teaching program. They had many reasons I am sure. However, these reasons were never discussed with the staff.

I will offer my best thoughts on why they discontinued offering online courses.

  1. Heald wants to differentiate itself from other schools. Heald makes no pretext that it is in business to sell education. Why do students need to attend Heald if they can take online classes from any institution? Heald charges substantial tuition and does not compete for students based on price. It competes for students based on quality of education. Heald promises that students will receive one-on-one attention from qualified instructors. Most colleges can't offer that and this is especially true for schools offering distance education.
  2. Many of Heald's students attend Heald in order to obtain computer skills. If they can't operate a computer, how are they going to learn online?
  3. A substantial number of Heald's students do not have the self-discipline it takes to successfully participate in an online learning program. The school recognizes this.
  4. Heald does not want to have to provide the training and support necessary for students and teacher to utilize Blackboard. It just requires too much work. As Bates states the question: "Is it worth it?"
    (p 210). In Heald's case it is not.

There are obviously other considerations Heald had to discontinued online learning but the ones I stated are the most obvious. Presently Heald has a contract to utilize Blackboard. In spite of Heald no longer providing online courses, the administration encourages the faculty to make use of Blackboard as a in-class aid to learning. The faculty does not really support these efforts to utilize Blackboard.

Heald is an example of an institution who has not resisted online learning but embraced it early on. They are unique in that they have decided to reject it as an educational platform for their students. Heald has been in business for over one hundred years. They understand their "customer base" and have determined that classroom based instruction, rather than online, is the vehicle that will help them and their students to be most successful. Heald offers a good example to other institutions that online learning may not be appropriate for everyone. I believe that institutions should make this determination and support their findings, even if it means they are not going to jump on board the online learning trend.