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Guidebooks for Student-Facilitated Discussion in Online Courses

The Guidebooks for Student-Facilitated Discussion in Online Courses, by Shannon Wheatley Hartman, Ph.D. and Jack Byrd Jr., Ph.D. were published January 2016 from Interactivity Foundation (IF). IF offers both a 64-page student guidebook edition and a 60-page instructor guidebook, which describes their discussion process in the 3-parts. Read more about the guidebook  and download the PDFs for free on Interactivity Foundation’s website here.

Guidebook_for_Student_Fac_DiscussionFrom IF…

These guidebooks offer a practical guide for students and instructors in online courses. They offer a step-by-step guide to our 3-part online discussion process:

1. Pre-discussion collaboration between student-facilitator(s) and instructor

2. Student-facilitated discussion of exploratory, civil, and developmental student discussions

3. Post-discussion de-briefing between student facilitator(s) and/or discussion group and instructor

The student guidebook offers instructions and tips for developing online facilitation and discussion skills. The instructor guidebook offers guidance on training and coaching student facilitators, nurturing good discussion procedures, and offers best practices for evaluation–including multiple grading rubrics.

Together, these guidebooks offer a new approach to online discussions and learning. They encourage interactivity in online courses by preparing students to be knowledge-producers and actively engaged in the learning process through exploratory discussion.

The twin goals of these guidebooks are 1) to empower students to take ownership of online discussion assignments while developing facilitation and discussion skills and 2) to redefine the role of the instructor from daily discussion manager to facilitation coach who is positioned to view all discussion participation from a meta-perspective.

Faculty who have tested these guidebooks have told us:

“The quality and quantity of student’s discussion online was categorically greater than in any previous course I have taught with an online component. What evolved in this course was, in fact, discussion rather than an exchange of unrelated posts.”

“I have been teaching online courses for several years, and I have long felt the weight of having to drive discussion and sometimes to ‘chase’ students to get them to participate, but I didn’t feel that way at all this summer. I wouldn’t say that I had less work to do, but my work was different; rather than me feeling responsible for all aspects of the discussion, I could observe my students, evaluate them, and then reflect on their work and their progress.”

“For grading, I assessed the quality of the facilitators initial questions, their involvement during the week, and then their summary at the end of the week. This level of grading is much higher than my usual grading…however, the trade-off was that the student-facilitators were spending more time in the discussions, and providing more one-to-one feedback to peers, than I would usually have time to do. The discussions were more active, and I wasn’t driving.”

We have tested this approach across academic disciplines and it seems to travel well, however, there is always room for improvement and additional testing. We welcome playful and experimental use of these guidebooks. Let us know how they work in your classroom and beyond!

Contact Shannon Wheatley Hartman at esw[at]interactivityfoundation[dot]org if you would like assistance incorporating these guidebooks into specific classes, departments, or community discussion forums. Also feel free to send suggestions, comments, thoughts, concerns, or a funny joke–emphasis on funny.

About the Interactivity FoundationIF_Logo
The Interactivity Foundation is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that works to enhance the process and expand the scope of our public discussions through facilitated small-group discussion of multiple and contrasting possibilities. The Foundation does not engage in political advocacy for itself, any other organization or group, or on behalf of any of the policy possibilities described in its discussion guidebooks. For more information, see the Foundation’s website at www.interactivityfoundation.org.

Follow on Twitter: @IFTalks

Resource Link: www.interactivityfoundation.org/the-student-facilitated-online-discussion-guidebooks-are-now-available/

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