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Computer-mediated discussion groups can help establish a community
learners in large lecture classes. They can enable all students to have
a voice in class discussions. They can give students the opportunity to
write about what they are learning and share ideas with other students.
Here are some suggestions for using computer-mediated communication to
enhance and expand classroom discussions.
- Become familiar with the campus technology resources that can
Introduce students to how to use the technology needed to accomplish
learning goals, and/or steer them to the appropriate written or
resources. Ideally they should get some hands on practice if they are
to the technology.
- Establish guidelines for etiquette. Discourage "flaming,"
to others' views, model appropriate responses. The "intimacy/distance"
paradox of e-mail communications can help break down boundaries and can
elicit more frank and sometimes "out of bounds" comments - so
rules need to be established. Consider whether or not using pseudonyms
is advisable. Anonymity has its plusses and minuses. If there is no
through a participation or assignment grade, students will most likely
not participate at an acceptable level.
- Set clear guidelines for the topics of the discussion *
the discussion with questions you devise as a starting point, or engage
students in coming up with a list of discussion questions. Are you
at the students' contributions as "oral" or "written" communications.
you expecting spontaneous contributions in which writing style or
"e-mail errors" will be overlooked, or should their submissions be
first before posting? The "intimacy/distance" paradox of e-mail
can elicit more frank and sometimes "out of bounds" comments - so rules
about what is acceptable need to be established.
- Set some guidelines for what you expect from each student -
how many points of discussion are the minimum required for the student
to receive either credit for class participation or credit for the
Do you want students to not only post their text, but also respond the
a certain number of other responses or responses from different
Will their be an individual or group written assignment or an HTML
produced by students?
- Set a time frame for the discussion - Expecting students to
within a narrow time frame may be unrealistic. Give them plenty of
- Make participation mandatory, either through a
grade or an
Possible computer-mediated approaches
- class e-mail distribution list
- small group e-mail distribution list (for ex. by various
subtopics on a
main theme). Students in small groups could summarize discussion for
class e-mail list.)
- class newsgroup
Plusses and minuses of various approaches:
- listserv (an e-mail list with subscribers - addresses don't
- web-based class or across-the-classes newsgroup/bulletin
- Whole class e-mail distribution list - volume of information less
not threaded. Relatively private, discussion takes up space in faculty
and student e-mail accounts, easy access, requires no high end
generally faster than web-based discussion. Across-the-classes (more
one section)or "across-the-curriculum" distribution list increases the
problems with manageability of information and list. Doesn't need a
- Class divided into small group e-mail discussion lists
private, makes information and discussion more manageable. Still takes
up space in individual e-mail accounts.
- Newsgroup (non web-based) can be class-based or
not private, resides in an archive - does not take up space on
e-mail accounts. Newsgroups via mason a bit "clunky." Does not need a
browser. Relatively easy to check participation and access discussion.
- Web-based bulletin board/chat rooms - class-based or
Easy to access discussion (with web browser capability) and readily
see participation. You and students can embed hypertext documents and
in the messages.
© Virginia Montecino 1997
Virginia Montecino |
and Technology Resources | Email:firstname.lastname@example.org