Loosening up online dialogue

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How to Deepen Online Dialogue
Rebecca Zambrano, Faculty Focus, January 26, 2018

This week I began working with George Veletsianos on developing a new course for the Royal Roads University Masters of Learning & Technology program.

The new course, Facilitating in Digital Learning Environments, is a redesign of the facilitation course I taught last year for RRU. The rebuild is to incorporate elements of open pedagogy and network learning into the course as part of the overall MALAT program redesign.

Like the old course, I want to keep it experiential and have students design and facilitate a module with their peers on a contemporary educational technology topic.

One thing I noticed last time around was that some of the conversation and discussion among students, whether in the discussion forums or on the wider web, was quite formal and academic. Often, posts in the discussion forums would read like their final paper and include full on APA references at the end of the discussion post, which made the discussion feel artificial and forced. Not very inviting for others to converse with. While I appreciate the academic rigour, it does tend to affect the nature of discussions, as this article from Faculty Focus suggests.

Faculty grading and feedback that require too much formality of language can scare students into virtual silence, sticking to exactly what the text says or saying what they think the professor wants to hear. Focusing on lower-level writing issues, such as grammar, APA style, or academic language, takes students away from content issues toward format issues. Although faculty might expect students to use formal academic language in their essays and research papers, it is not ideal for discussion.

How to Deepen Online Dialogue, Rebecca Zambrano, Faculty Focus, Jan 26, 2018

This time around, my instructions on participating in asynchronous discussions, wether in a forum or as comments on a blog post, will be to encourage students to use a more authentic voice and write with a less structured, more informal tone. I think the discussion will be more natural, more fluid, and will help to encourage students to value their own voice.

When we show students that their own authentic way of communicating is interesting to us and to other students, we encourage them to value their own and one another’s thinking. Essentially, we are sending them the message that their opinions and knowledge matter in whatever field we are studying.

How to Deepen Online Dialogue, Rebecca Zambrano, Faculty Focus, Jan 26, 201