In an LMS, discussions are used as a teaching tool to extend classroom conversations. By getting students to engage with class material online, you can use the discussion that ensues between students to deepen learning through dialogue and enhance knowledge retention. However, in an online classroom due to lack of face – to- face interaction, it can be difficult to keep the students interested and facilitate meaningful classroom discussions. Let’s look at a few easy tips that will help you spark the student’s interest and create meaningful and dynamic classroom discussions.
1) Craft discussions that are a challenge for students’ understanding of the course material
LMS discussions in which students are simply asked to respond to standard course material can be boring and repetitive to students. Instead of simply reiterating course material, craft probing questions that will challenge the students to go beyond the facts and delve into critical thinking. This can be done through online debates, sharing case studies or framing open-ended questions that generate multiple points of view. These will help encourage greater student participation, elicit divergent responses and promote critical thinking among the students.
2) Relate the online discussions to students’ real-life experiences and challenges
Students using an LMS often don’t feel connected to their online classmates because they don’t truly have a chance to get to know them. Hence it is essential to include some discussion questions that prompt students to relate course topics to their own experiences. By asking questions that encourage personal responses to the material, you can help students develop more of a sense of community, as well as challenge them to apply theories and concepts to scenarios that they have faced, or will face, on the job.
2) Make discussion participation a graded element
By assigning a portion of the class grade to participate in the online classroom discussion, you can provide students a strong incentive to actively participate in online discussions.
3) Invite guest speakers or facilitators
Invite subject matter experts and other industry professionals as guests to participate and facilitate online classroom discussions or chats. Adding new insights will stimulate the students and incite more discussions.
4) Gently encourage the ‘not-so-active’ students
If your online students are absent in classroom discussions, you can gently encourage them by sending a private message to check in and figure out what’s holding them back. Many students feel apprehensive about participating in discussions and sometime simply need a gentle push to join into the online forums.
5) Be a silent, but active participant
One of the goals of the discussion forum in an LMS is to encourage students to engage in meaningful and thoughtful dialogue. Therefore, in order to encourage student interaction, stay in the background as much as possible and only allow students to do the talking on the forum. However, at the same time you need to be vigilant and active to ensure that the online discussion do not go off – topic and intervene respectfully if the discussions get argumentative.