Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Increasing Class Participation in Moodle Forums

As we begin to move classes online, I have been thinking about how to increase student participation in discussion in forums. In my hybrid classes, I have begun to have independent learning tasks that I want students to share and discuss before our next in-class meetings. I use the "single, simple discussion" format so that students are all in one threaded discussion each week. Each week I have a different task and a new discussion forum.

Even when I graded the student postings or raised questions about their postings, students primarily only posted their answer to the question and didn't respond to others. This pattern occurred even when it was obvious that there were differences of opinions. According to Department of Education guidelines, online course content has to be interactive and should not simply be homework. I wanted to make our online discussions look more like inclass discussions.

The Moodle forum allows faculty to grade student postings by adding up all the points earned on each posting. Only the student themselves sees the faculty ratings. So I set a weekly forum with a maximum of five points. Students earn three points for a good posting  (A or B) that is on time and two points for an adequate posting (C or D) that is on time. A late posting earns only 1 point no matter how good it is and I don't accept any posting over a week late.  So I am requiring students to focus both on the quality and timeliness of their postings. Students earn another 1 point for each relevant, reflective response to another student's posting. Since the total score is set at 5 points, a student who earns only 2 points on their original posting can earn three more for their responses to others. Even someone who does not do an original posting can earn 5 points for the week with five good reflective, thoughtful responses (although no one has figured this out yet). This system seems to have generated some very good discussions. Some students are engaging in dialog and some responding to more than two posts. The total I set in Moodle allows me to not worry that a student will earn too many points as it will not give them more than five. My syllabi identify the value of their forum participation in their final grade.

My ground rules continue to be in process.  Do I want to allow someone to earn the full five points without an original posting? I also need to adjust the time frame, which currently required postings to be submitted before the next in class session, when I usually highlight and discuss the responses for the week. Some people were posting minutes before class so that no one, including me, could read or respond to their postings. And the same individuals were chronically late every week. Some were even posting during class and with students arriving late to class. For the future I am thinking about moving up the dates for original postings to two or three days before the next class and responses to the day before class.

I would be interested in hearing how others are using discussion forums in their classes.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Twitter How To

When Twitter first came out, I thought it marked the end of Western Civilization.  No doubt many of you feel the same way.  Skepticism aside, I have been using Twitter in my classed, and to great results. 

Here's an easy tutorial I wrote for new Twitter users to log in and get going.  You will discover that the exchange of information on Twitter is boundless, practically instantaneous, and totally inspiring.  Feel fre to copy and share this if you want!

1) Go to
2) Go to Field: “New to Twitter? Join Today!” and fill out the necessary information. BE SURE TO WRITE DOWN YOUR LOGIN AND PASSWORD IN YOUR NOTEBOOK FOR THIS CLASS.
3) “Username.” Think of a creative, original, unembarrassing name for your Twitter Account. Your Username will be in your URL, so pick something that’s easy to remember and type.
4) Click on “Next Tab: Interests” and, if you want, select your interests.
5) Click on “Next Tab: Friends,” enter “CritThinkWrite” and select “Search.” Click on “Follow” to follow my Twitter account.
5) Go to your Email and activate the account via the link.
6) Click on your Twitter account icon in the upper right hand corner. In the drop down menu, select Settings.
7) Go through EACH Tab menu to update and personalize your account. Take special note of the following:
• Tweet Privacy (under “Account”). This allows ONLY those who you have approved to be able to read your Tweets.
• Twitter with Text Messaging (under “Mobile”). If you can send text messages from your phone, I STRONGLY recommend you activate this feature. This way, you can post while on the go!
• “Notifications” Tab: You may want to consider deselecting receiving texts every time you get a Twitter, though keeping it active with DM will help you stay connected. Check out the right column for other features.
• Picture (under “Profile”). Add an image or your own photo.
• Bio (under “Profile”). Enter a bio.
• Select a Theme (under “Design). Customize your Twitter account!
8) Click again on your Twitter account icon (upper right hand corner). Scroll down to “Write your First Tweet!” in the right column. Write your first tweet and post.