This week I realized with some trepidation that there were 487 discussion board posts I had not read after just six weeks of an educational technology class and worse, I had all but given up on participating in this important component of this course. Wondering if anyone else was feeling as over (or under?) whelmed by the discussion boards, I started a new thread in the ‘open’ area of the boards. I learned I am not alone in feeling alienated by the volume of responses.
A Community of Inquiry model, as discussed by Garrison et al in 2000, suggests that the social presence is one of a triad of elements (along with cognitive presence and teaching presence), integral to learning in an online course. The nature of online discussion allows all learners an equal opportunity to participate in and create collective knowledge by sharing and elaborating ideas. It enables collaborative knowledge-building processes where each student becomes reflective, thinks critically, and understands concepts better than if they were studying alone. It is amazing that through the use of Twitter, for example, we can communicate directly with people from all over the world, can collect a variety of resources, and have experts at our fingertips.
So why do our discussion boards seem to be comprised of ‘intersecting monologues’ that lack discourse and connection between participants and ideas? And does this have a negative impact on the educational experience? In this case, the facilitator stepped in and recommended that we shift our focus to talking about reactions to the unit contents explored in each forum thread rather than reiterating the readings to encourage connection and interaction. I appreciate his willingness to ‘changing pace in an online course…to capitalize on what’s working, and tweak what isn’t.’
2 down, 485 unread messages to go…..
Garrison, Anderson, & Archer (2000), Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education