One question that still bothers me as an online student is "What is the teacher's role once the students have started posting their discussion and perhaps responding to other students' posts. In my online courses, I have often reached the point of asking, "Is there anyone out there who cares? Is anyone reading my posts?" especially when no other students choose to respond to mine, and of course, if you post after the first few students, they have already been responded to multiple times. Most times, unless it is a student group assignment, there are no summaries at the end of the discussions. So what is the point of the discussion - to cover the content and appear to be building the student online community? It does feel mechanical and repetitive: post your discussion and respond to two others each week.
So what is the teacher's role in facilitating discussions? In FLO Fundamentals and other FLO courses, the facilitators do respond; we have seen this in our micro FLO with the sidebar notes. Sometimes, I think discussions are a way to keep the students busy while the teacher is doing something else either within or outside the course. End of rant...
Out of confusion comes clarity.
Leonne, thank you for bringing this up because I too have thought of this question. I think of the role as facilitation, someone to keep the spark of the conversation going, but there are times when it is so mechanical and hard to keep the authenticity. I find sometimes I am challenged to balance those students who are really interested in a topic and not ready to move to the next lesson, with those who just want to make their post and be done with the course!
I teach both in the online and face-to-face world, and I find I am a different facilitator in each scenario. For our online world, there is never enough time in a day to read everyone's posts and post summaries. I try to do a weekly summary for some of the courses, and give that responsibility to different students each week too if they are in groups. In the face-to-dace world, I think we never have enough time to dive deep into discussions as we are bound by our class time, and even harder to do summaries of what each group or the class discussed. It takes away more time from the discussion! In the online world there is time to consider what you might write in your post if the student is committed to learning and discussion. I suppose this does raise a bigger question about lessons and education!
Leonne, your comment..
>>Sometimes, I think discussions are a way to keep the students busy while the teacher is doing something else either within or outside the course
... gave me a good chuckle -- you are SOOO right!!! I have indeed been a student in online courses where the "discussions" felt more like being sent out to amuse myself during recess.
I guess the big question is: do you think the students are actually learning something from the discussion? If not ... WHY require it at all?
Great responses to Leonne's question so far: What is the teacher's role in facilitating discussions? This is giving me ideas for future MicroCourse topics!
The list of roles is very long! But an important one is to spread the role to others. Another important role is to make your role clear. If you set up expectations that you're not going to fulfill then students feel ignored. (And sometimes those expectations are modelled, not articulated.)