Report: Online Discussion Participation (Online Learning)

Due to technical difficulties, we jumped at the last minute into the Moodle chat system provided by the Office of Distributed Learning.  I was amazed at how quickly this was accomplished.

We spent a couple minutes finding our way – changing our profiles and avatars – and then followed the directions of [the professor] to begin sharing and discussing our real-world experiences with online learning systems.  This included defining “online learning system” and anecdotes about Blackboard and WebCT, two major players who recently merged.  We briefly touched on some tools for secondary-school teachers.

The conversation drifted into equity and access issues regarding public-school students and the Internet.  This thread also sputtered out quickly.

When [the professor] directed us to discuss Chapter 7 in the Jonassen book, we touched on a few experiences with quest- or task-oriented software.  There was a consensus that you could get kids to do all kinds of diligent problem-solving (the kind of productive activity we want them doing) if you trick them into it through games and other computer opportunities.

I found this discussion surprisingly scattered and superficial.  To some extent, participants made an obvious effort to name the person they were replying to or questioning, but careless interleaving of conversation threads continued as if we hadn’t discussed it during the last meeting.  I get the impression there are typists who watch themselves type and then hit Enter without checking to see if the time is right to actually send the drafted comment.  This was in spite of the instructor’s comment early on that we could draft our comments in Word and then copy/paste them into the chat program. (I’m not commenting on anyone’s technical skills as a typist, just on their decisions when to send their work into the stream of discussion.)

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