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DB or Not DB ? That Is the Question!! PowerPoint Presentation
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DB or Not DB ? That Is the Question!!

DB or Not DB ? That Is the Question!!

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DB or Not DB ? That Is the Question!!

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  1. DB or Not DB?That Is the Question!! Training Notes

  2. Even if you are an experienced online instructor, if you haven’t yet used Discussion Board, you might find it somewhat intimidating. Let’s face it: many of us only use DB because we’ve been told we need to: • because it can foster connectedness in a medium where isolation runs rampant • because it’s generally considered to be evidence-based best practice

  3. Discussion Board hasn’t been met with universal approval by either faculty or students…but that may be related to a limited understanding of the uses and benefits of this handy online tool. Some instructors merely post their DB forums each quarter, barely skimming through student responses, grading simply on the number and length of posts, rather than on content… …and never actually responding to student posts.

  4. Most faculty use DB to have students discuss topics covered in their readings. Most don’t actually take part in the discussions, feeling DB is for students only. Others use it as a repository for a second level of assignments (“regular” assignments being submitted, obviously, under Assignments instead of Discussion Board).

  5. Rationale for a two-tiered system of assignment submission? • “Students don’t expect any feedback from me on Discussion Board,” and • “You have to keep them really busy so they don’t get bored or start feeling that online classes are just an easy ‘A’.” Are these the best reasons for assigning extra work?

  6. Some faculty never actually read DB posts or assignments, though they might skim for key words to suggest whether they’re “on topic.” Some give credit/no credit, based on whether or not the student completes the assignment—content doesn’t really matter. All of this does tend to fit with the general student opinion of DB which is that it’s busy work that instructors rarely seem to read and to which they rarely provide appropriate feedback.

  7. Most instructors of online classes work very hard and spend long hours—often many more than they spend on their face-to-face classes—ensuring a quality learning experience for their students. But their Discussion Board efforts don’t always reflect that! However, even if you’ve heard both faculty and students alike complain about DB, don’t let that deter from using this excellent tool!

  8. Once you’ve decided to use Discussion Board in your course, you’ll want to sign up for the next available Blackboard DB training session. This will provide you with a good overview of how DB works, with some very useful step-by-step written instructions (tutorials). Meanwhile, consider what you’d like DB to accomplish in your class.

  9. When you know what role you want DB to play in your course—what goals you hope to accomplish by adding DB to your repertoire of tools—it’s time to get down to business.Deciding how you intend to implement DB is critical in figuring out how you want to implement it in your course—so this is something that must be determined even before you develop your course syllabus.

  10. Some possible ways to use DB in various types of courses: • To replicate the kind of group participation that’s typically lost in an online course, develop forum topics that expand on readings and lectures, and get students thinking/talking. • Consider a weekly topic, or one per learning module. • Think of what grabs students’ attention in the face-to-face setting, and build on that. • Combine topics where appropriate, to help students make additional connections

  11. To expand the discussions you begin in the classroom, create and post forums that follow up on what was discussed in class that day. • Did you run out of time in the midst of a really interesting interaction? Let students continue the discussion online. • Was the topic too sensitive for students to feel safe speaking aloud? DB can provide anonymity. • DB can be used for extra credit opportunities, or as part of the participation part of students’ grades. • Be sure to establish expectations/ground rules in advance!

  12. To enhance students’ ability to think critically, develop forums that require them to really think—as opposed to simply regurgitating what you or their textbook has told them. • Encourage students to question the obvious—don’t just accept the status quo. • Require them to apply scientific method in their reasoning, and to explain their thought processes. • Where applicable, allow students to discuss their own culture, values, beliefs, and experiences, and to recognize the impact of seeing (whatever the topic is) through these particular filters.

  13. To give students an opportunity to show each other how they solve problems…(this one is pretty obvious): • Give a specific problem as the forum topic; students create “threads” with their solutions to the problem. • Problem-solving processes can be typed in, or if work is done via a special software program or by hand (e.g., math problems, scientific formulas), documents can be saved or scanned and uploaded/linked to DB. • Students view each other’s work (although there are also other ways to accomplish this besides DB), and can critique or even grade each other’s work if the instructor desires.

  14. How to Set Up a Discussion Board Forum • First, log onto Blackboard and open your course. 2. From your Home page, click on “Tools”, and then on Discussion Board. (I always create a direct link to DB for students—that way they see it any time they open Bb). 3. When you open DB for the first time, you’ll see no content, but you WILL see a box that says, “Create Forum.” Click on the box.

  15. The next screen walks you through setting up your discussion forum. • Give your forum a title, and enter that in the “Name” box. • Under “Description,” describe the topic—explain what students need to do to respond to the forum. • Under “Forum Availability,” check Yes—but be sure to specify immediately under that the time frame for the forum to be available to students (unless there are no restrictions).

  16. Under “Forum Settings,” your first choice is whether or not to allow anonymous posts. • Online courses have a high degree of built-in anonymity, so I don’t allow anonymous posts in those classes. • However, if you’re using DB in a hybrid or web-enhanced face-to-face course, giving students the option of posting anonymously will usually encourage them to speak more freely. • Check the box if you want students to post anonymously; leave it blank if not.

  17. These are the settings options I suggest: • Allow Author to Edit Own Published Posts (hey, we all make typos or inadvertently write something we wish we hadn’t! • Allow Users to Reply with Quote (if that’s okay w/you) • Allow File Attachments (ditto) • Allow Members to Create New Threads (there might be times when, for example, you only want students to respond to your thread, or you create multiple threads and ask students to choose one or more of these threads to which they wish to respond—in which case you would want to UNselect this option!)

  18. I personally do not allow students to delete, tag, subscribe, or rate posts, nor do I force moderation, as these things don’t fit my course. But they might fit yours, so check with the experts for more info about them! (For more info on any of these options, review the DB tutorials or contact Jane Chinn or DelaynaBreckon).

  19. Your last choice is in grading the forum, you’ll need to give this some thought. Bb will not let you grade forums that allow anonymous posts. So if you’ve checked “Allow anonymous posts,” you can’t check “Grade Forum.” And if you check “Grade Forum” after having checked “Allow anonymous posts,” it will UNcheck “Allow anonymous posts.” Very frustrating!!! But fortunately, there is a way to get around this!

  20. Here’s what you need to do: Click “Allow anonymous posts,” but do NOT click “Grade Forum.” This means there will be no column for your DB forum in your Grade Center, so you will need to manually add one. You will not be able to grade this forum in the same way that would be possible were you not allowing anonymous posts, but with a few very simple extra steps, you can grade your forum as you wish—the process is described later.

  21. When you’ve checked all the appropriate options, click “Submit,” and your first forum is posted. I strongly suggest that if you intend to use regular (for example, weekly) forums, plan them ahead of time, and have them ready and waiting. I know from experience it’s far too easy to forget if you procrastinate in posting weekly forums!

  22. Note: forums not yet available to students will not show up when they visit DB; they’ll only see those forums currently active. Once a forum opens, you can leave it open for the remainder of the quarter, or you can close it any time (or designate this ahead of time, so it automatically shuts down when you want it to). Unread posts are noted by boldface type so you can easily see which ones need to be read.

  23. Some general tips to keep in mind while developing and using DB: • Provide specific topics with well-defined parameters for each forum—and make them relevant to what’s being covered in the course itself. • Read every single post! You don’t need to respond to each one, but you DO need to know what’s going on in your class. • Stay actively involved in DB, but don’t take it over! This can be a temptation, but let students do most of the talking (plus, DB can become WAY too time-consuming if you let it).

  24. Check DB frequently, because: • It’s overwhelming to log on and find 67 posts waiting to be read. • Students appreciate seeing that others are reading what they have to say. • You DO want to know what’s going on—sometimes you’ll need to clarify, correct, edit, maybe even delete…and on occasion, you might need to referee or intervene in some other manner.

  25. I recommend you begin with a forum in which everyone introduces themselves to the class. • In addition to the usual ways students identify themselves, include some questions like: • What interests you about this course? • What other courses in this field have you taken? • What experiences have you had with online courses before this one? • What would you like others in the class to know about you?

  26. Consider 2 forums for the first and last weeks: • First forum: introduction • Second: that week’s course topic • Penultimate: that week’s course topic • Last: Closure (saying goodbye, final comments) This has worked quite well for me, although it does make for a lot of extra reading those 2 weeks.

  27. Give students something to look forward to! • Make the topics INTERESTING! • When possible, let students express their own thoughts and feelings, instead of merely regurgitating what they’ve read/heard in the readings or lectures. • If that doesn’t fit, give them thought-provoking topics that really do make them think and that stimulate creativity. • Use the same kinds of techniques in DB that you employ to make your in-class interactions noteworthy.

  28. Try not to censor the discussion, unless it’s truly necessary. • Students will typically confront each other for any inappropriate posts; most tend to tactfully assume their peers’ intentions were good, despite what they may have actually said. • If you must edit or delete a post, consider emailing that student privately with an explanation, to avoid publicly humiliating them. If you feel you must address the issue in the open forum for teaching purposes, model the tact and professionalism you wish the rest of the class to learn and practice.

  29. If something a student has posted suggests to you that they may need counseling or other resources, offer support and provide a referral to appropriate resources, when necessary. I have, for the most part, been more than pleased at the degree to which students have provided support and validation to each other.

  30. If that always happened, our jobs as online teachers would be so much easier! But of course, not everyone responds to others in a positive, supportive manner… …and you will encounter students with mental health issues, students with spiritual or political beliefs they feel compelled to share with everyone, students with extremely narrow minds who are unwilling to listen to opinions which differ from their own, etc., etc., etc…..

  31. This, of course, is a major reason why closemonitoring of DB is important: You will need to intervene promptly if students behave online in a matter that causes concern (e.g. if they’re responding to the material or to each other inappropriately)—just as you would in class. In fact, since you’re not there in person, it’s even MORE important for you to respond accordingly as quickly as possible!

  32. Tips on grading DB An effective grading rubric is essential! Use it to grade each forum as objectively and consistently as possible. Students need to have easy access to your grading rubric, so they understand clearly your expectations when they post DB entries. Make it as clear, concise, and unequivocal as possible…admittedly challenging when you’re seeking quality and not quantity.

  33. Keep your grading rubric understandable and easy to use. • Once you get used to grading DB forums, if you decide you need a more detailed grading rubric, you can always develop that for later use. • Keep in mind that students must be able to understand it, if they’re going to be able to comply with your expectations! Keep it simple!

  34. Grading DB forums, step by step: For a forum in which anonymous post are not allowed, it’s quite easy: • Open DB, and click on the title of the forum you wish to grade. 2. Click on “Grade Forum.” 3. Choose the student whose forum you wish you to grade, go to the column labeled “username,” and click on the double-down arrows after the student’s user name.

  35. From the drop-down menu, select “Grade.” You’ll then see each post the student has entered into that forum (both their original thread(s) and any responses to other posts). 5. Determine the student’s grade based on the grading rubric, and enter the appropriate number of points in the box near the top of the window that says “Grade.” This will enter the points in your Grade Center. That’s it!

  36. To grade a forum in which anonymous postsare allowed, a bit more effort is involved. • Remember that you will need to manually create a column in your grade center for each forum you intend to grade. 2. Open the Performance Dashboard (Course Mgmt— Evaluation—Performance Dashboard), where you’ll see an alphabetical list of all students in the class. [Please note that when you use Performance Dashboard, the tabs on the left will disappear. To get them back, click on the little arrow in the margin on the left.]

  37. 3. Select the student you wish to grade, then locate the Discussion Board column, and click on the underlined number, which is a link to a list of the forums in which that student has participated. • When that list opens, go to the forum you wish to grade, find the column labeled Total Posts, and click on the underlined number, which is a link to a page showing each entry that student has posted under that forum. 5. Determine the number of points earned for the forum, and enter it in the appropriate column in the Grade Center.

  38. A few concluding thoughts…. When I first agreed to try teaching online, I was both scared and skeptical—and one of my biggest areas of concern was Discussion Board. Overall, though, outcomes have by far exceeded my wildest expectations. My experiences have been so positive that I now incorporate DB in almost all of my face-to-face classes.

  39. Student feedback is almost universally positive: • Online students tell me my class is the most interactive online course they’ve ever taken—and many online friendships started through DB last beyond the class itself, something virtually unheard of in most online courses. • Face-to-face students say the use of DB with the option of posting anonymously contributes significantly to their overall learning experience—particularly, the opportunity to hear from peers who would never have spoken out in the classroom setting.

  40. If you do it well, DB can be a lot of work—I can’t pretend otherwise! And done poorly, it benefits no one, creates bad feelings, and could actually do harm. But the rewards of a well-planned, creatively- designed, and effectively-delivered Discussion Board are incredibly well worth the effort.