The Collaborative Learning Environment of Online Discussion Posts
In online learning required weekly discussion posts are an expected norm for the student experience. It’s one way to take virtual attendance of online learners as they travel from week to week, but there’s also more of a teaching methodology to it. In lecture halls you’re expected to stay quiet and hang on your instructors every word. This is closed, one-way communication meant to share information and not explore it. With the online model interaction is a must; since physicality isn’t possible. This is where discussion posts comes into play.
Social psychologists would refer to discussion forum interaction as collaborative learning. According to D.W. Johnson collaborative learning is, “the learning that occurs when a group works together to accomplish shared learning goals.” The goal for an online learning with a forum post is arriving at a conclusion, or agreement on the topic assigned. Students are typically encouraged to respond to one to two students’ discussion posts each week to share their perspective and opinion. This type of interaction will not only demonstrate to the instructor how well the student understand the subject, but it also facilitates class discussion when there is no physical class time in which to interact.
According to M.L. Flowers, “open groups that used dialogue and discussion when working together establish positive norms of information sharing that may influence their responsiveness to group design methodologies.” In short, this quote is used in reference to a study done between a closed group and an open group to illustrate the value of a collaborative learning exchange. In the closed group it was apparent that an open exchange of ideas was not represented. The value in the open model is that students are presented with other opinions and interpretations of the same material. This may give the student better comprehension of the subject, new avenues to explore with research, and it facilitates healthy dialogue among peers.
So while your average weekly discussion post may seem tedious because the process is on repeat, understand that it’s a valuable tool for learning. It adds to your online experience in that you get to hear the thoughts of your fellow peers in class; something you may not get to experience in a traditional classroom if those peers are too afraid to speak up. The online format allows for everyone to share their insight on topics discussed in class, and the intimidation factor is at a minimum since the dialogue is strongly encouraged.
By J. Mason
Online Career Tips Editor