Ten Ways to Spice Up Online Discussions: September Online Learning Webinar

by Christine Scherer

Instructional Technologist Jackie Wickham hosted the September Online Learning Webinar, Ten Ways to Spice Up Online Discussions. The recording is available on Blue Jeans, and you can provide feedback and suggest topics for future Online Learning Webinars.

The ideas and resources that Jackie shared in the webinar are outlined below:

    1. Require students to use media – a picture, audio, or video – in their discussion posts. This Canvas Guide shows how to record and upload video within Canvas.
    2. Use the Discussion Analytics tool developed by Northwestern Information Technology to get data on student participation and discussion themes.
    3. Encourage storytelling. Asking students to “tell a story about…” allows them to share their relevant life experience, building course community and providing everyone in the course with richer perspective.
    4. Visualize network graphs with Nebula, another learning app developed by Northwestern Information Technology.
    5. Implement “Social Media Rules” – limit students to 140 characters or ask them to think of a creative hashtag to go with their post, as Ryan Anderson did in his CanvasCon presentation.
    6. Ask students to pin articles or videos using YellowDig, a social media tool.
    7. Track YellowDig responses and interactions with the YellowDig Viz tool, a learning app developed at Northwestern.
    8. Direct students to end each post with a question and answer each other’s questions to promote more flow of conversation and less repetitive responses to the original prompt. Thanks to Soo La Kim for suggesting this idea!
    9. Add the Twitter app from the External Apps Center and ask students to embed a thought leader’s recent tweets or a related hashtag. Bonus: students are not required to create a Twitter account to participate.
    10. Ask students to adopt an alternate persona and post from the perspective of someone else.

If you are interested in incorporating any of these ideas into your online course, feel free to contact Jackie Wickham at jackie@northwestern.edu. Mark your calendars for our next Online Learning Webinar, October 5 at noon. Learning Designer Jessica Mansbach will discuss Critical Thinking in Online Courses.

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