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Scenario: Mitigating an online disaster in gender, sexuality and culture

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Chris Teplovs
17 January 2013

I've devised a hypothetical scenario to think about the role that learning design might play in a hybrid course gone awry.  Follow the link above to the Google Doc that describes the scenario.

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Julie Lirot
6:38pm 17 January 2013

I love this hypothetical situation because it is so often real!  It is very difficult to create interesting discussion prompts that will engage students and not have them feel like they are being forced to complete "busy work" just for a "grade".  I can hardly wait to see how others respond.


Tiffany Crosby
2:52pm 18 January 2013

This is an interesting, and all too real scenario. Having taught in an asynchronous environment, I can attest to the "uninspired" postings that students make to discussion boards and the amount of time wasted by the professors that have to sort through them and try to grade them. I think you're right on in the thinking that often leads to the misuse of discussion boards and that is the notion that you can just take an in-class room course, post the lectures on the web, open up a discussion forum, and end up with an interesting online class. I will be interested to see how this discussion advances. I hope you continue to explore this issue as we progress in the course.

Niall Watts
5:33pm 18 January 2013

Can you define what an 'inspired' posting would be like and scaffold this for the students?

If participation in the discussion board is compulsory there need to be guidelines.

If it is a place for informal exchange of ideas and is not graded then it does not matter how the students use it provided it is within 'acceptable usage' guidelines


Adam Warren
9:09pm 18 January 2013

One thing we need to understand before contributing potential solutions are the learning outcomes that students will achieve by participation in the discussion forum - I assume that they are not just doing it for fun. I might hazard a guess that Nina has not considered this aspect, and just assumed that students would like to talk about this (for her) fascinating subject.

One of the problems with discussing these topics is that the students may feel constrained to be politically correct - or to stay silent. If students adopt a psudonym, they may feel free to be more challenging (and others will be more challenged). Ground rules will still need to apply:
a) students must use only one consistent psudonym that uniquely identifies them (e.g. MartinQ)
b) all criticism must be of ideas and not the person (i.e no "you're a bigoted idiot" or worse)
c) all posts must be legal and not contravene equality legislation (i.e. they need to undertstand the law)
d) if you see a post that you think breaks any of these rules, email the tutor privately and immediately.

Nina will need to pick a suitable controversial topic and the discussion should be time limited - two weeks should be plenty. After a week's rest, another forum could be used to tackle another tricky issue. For example issues like:
"People whose homes are also guest houses should be allowed to choose not to accept bookings from gay couples provided that this is made clear in their advertising."

The use of psudonyms will enable people who agree with this standpoint to argue for it without fear of repercussions in 'real life', but will have to make that argument from an ethical and moral standpoint.

The danger for Nina is that these forums will become red hot - but it is no worse (and hopefully much better) than many open internet forums. The time limit will help contain things, and if it looks like its getting out of control, Nina can simply close the forum.

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