As an instructor, you want to act as moderator on course discussion boards. Your role is to not only engage with adult learners, but also help to facilitate and encourage learning. You do this by weaving quotes from post and responses and wrapping up the discussion session. When you do this you are creating a social framework in the online classroom that learners can learn, mimic and use in their professional careers.
Some additional benefits of weaving and wrapping online discussion boards are the following:
- Builds connections and community – Design questions that help to promote discussion on course topics.
- Discussion boards help to develop and enhance cognitive, critical thinking, and writing skills.
- Learners have time to research, think, compose and reflect before contributing to the discussion.
- Allow learners to review, reflect and respond to other learners, helps to facilitate exploratory learning.
- Allowing learners the freedom to express themselves in the online classroom. This is great for learners with different learning styles, it provides them with a venue where they feel more comfortable contributing to group discussions.
To create good weaves and wraps you begin with designing a powerful online discussion board that provides excellent opportunities for positive reinforcement, increased interactions, enhanced engagement, and opens up the door for more discussion regarding course content. Weaving and wrapping allows instructors to moderate the flow of conversation between learner-to-learner and instructor-to-learner.
Experienced bloggers and community managers will often summarize or point out “good stuff,” said among commenter’s. This is called Wrapping. Why wrap up an assignment discussion session? Most learners will not take the time to hunt down and read more than one or two of their classmates’ post. By wrapping up an assignment discussion session, you are doing the following:
- Signaling the end of the conversation so learners can move on to the next assignment.
- Synthesizing the information.
- Articulating key points and/or questions that have been raised and attributing those points to their authors.
- Increased learning for participants and being able to see that participants understand the assignment’s learning objectives.
As instructor moderator, during your wrapping session, you are collecting quotations from learner post and responses. You are consciously pulling quotes from learner post that appear to be disjointed or shallow, or who are still experimenting with their own voice. You are also building a wrap that draws parallels and demonstrates value of voice, which creates a bond between the learners. As instructor moderator, you are building bridges and helping to strengthen the online learning community.
Most online instructors want to avoid wrapping. This is not of benefit to your learner, nor to yourself. Wrapping helps learners to explore a diversity of perspectives. Wrapping a discussion is one of the most effective ways to make learners more aware of the range of interpretations that are possible in an intellectual inquiry. A well-designed discussion board means that instructors ask better questions and learners provide better responses.
Wrapping up a discussion forum does not always need to be done by the instructor. You can assign the job to a learner. Each week a learner can be responsible for wrapping up the assignment discussion board. By doing this learners are …
- Developing the capacity for the clear communication of ideas.
- Developing their writing skills.
- Sharing perspectives and ideas.
- Learning to respect other voices and experiences.
Weaving is a much more time consuming and challenging than wrapping. Weaves do not need to be sonnets or long Haikus. However, a good weave should move the conversation forward and assist in developing a learners critical thinking skills. Weaving learner comments and ideas together helps to create conversation that is more meaningful. The instructor begins with a social comment based on assignment or course content, and then quickly shifts to six or more quotes from the discussion area. Weaving helps to highlight central ideas and helps to set the direction by showing relationships and relevance between learners’ thoughts and ideas. In addition, it helps the instructor to “moderate” the dialogue on the discussion board. Unlike wrapping, weaving should be the responsibility of the instructor and not the learner. Weaving also helps to bring a much-needed instructor presence to the online learning community by demonstrating the instructor is indeed “listening.”
A good weave will also bring out some rhetorical follow-up questions. Some learners will respond, some will not. It is not a requirement for learners to respond to a weave.
So, how do you weave a good weave?
- Review all participants’ post and comments.
- Look for and take note of the following in participant’s post:
- Similarities and differences
- Anomalies and inconsistencies
- Unanswered questions
- Review your findings
- Synthesize a concept
- Add humor to help remind learners of the potential for misconceptions and to help promote a deeper meaning of the dialogue.
- Create your weaving post.
A good weave will also include an interesting lead-in title. You want to grab the learner’s attention. It will also leave some loose threads and ideas left open to interpretation. This keeps learners thinking. Last but not least, add some value to the weave by including information such as helpful links, etc., that is worth reading or aids assignment research.
You are thinking, Cheryl! Come on! This is too much! Remember, wrapping is easier than weaving. Also, you can give the responsibility of wrapping to learners. What is the best weave and wrap routine? Wrap once a week toward the end of every assigned discussion. Weave once a week. However, if the discussion is powerful and engaging, then weave twice a week.
Wrapping and weaving not only helps you to manage and moderate learner post and responses, it also helps you to create a present and engaging space with learners. Remember, online learning does not mean sans engagement.
Feature image courtesy of Flickr, Jane Dallaway.