Online Discussions: Would Changing the Environment Help?

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Online discussions aren’t a new thing anymore; they regularly occur in online courses and courses with online components. What we’ve learned for sure: they’re a mixed bag. On the plus side, they make participation safer. Students can make a post, walk away, and not worry about nonverbal, face-to-face feedback. Comments are written, which means there’s more time to craft a thoughtful response and more opportunities to work on writing skills. The discussion has permanence. Student comments stay put for the duration of the exchange. The whole interaction can be reviewed and analyzed in great depth. When students are assigned to respond to comments, that ups the chances of peers learning from each other. And the discussion can occur asynchronously.

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