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For several semesters now, I have made Daily Discussion Posts (DDPs) a key feature in my courses. At the beginning of the term, I explain that these posts meet three goals:
- to highlight information directly related to projects students are working on.
- to cover topics important to workplace writing that we are not covering elsewhere.
- to share resources that help with workplace writing generally.
Originally, I devised these posts to meet another goal. My courses are entirely online. We never meet in the classroom. I found that students were checking in on the course website only once or twice a week. Predictably, the fewer times students checked in, the more trouble they had getting their work of the course done.
I considered punitive measure and complicated check-ins to solve the problem, but I don’t like negative enforcement strategies—and I certainly didn’t want to make more work for myself in order to track those solutions. These daily posts give students a reason to come to the site every week day, meeting my goal of encouraging more frequent engagement with the course materials.
Logistics for the Daily Discussion Posts
Every Tuesday through Saturday during the term, I post advice articles, how-to webpages, and other resources that supplement the textbook. I ask students to respond to the posts with significant, well-explained comments.
I emphasize that these posts are not the place for “yeah, I agree” or “me too” kinds of comments. Instead, I ask students to contribute ideas, engage with others, and extend the conversation.
Structure for the Daily Discussion Posts
I organize the Daily Discussion Posts (DDPs) around the series of hashtags explained in the table below. Note that Mondays are reserved for the Module Overview that outlines the work students need to complete for the week.
|#TuesdayTutorial||These posts demonstrate something or tell students how to do something.||#TuesdayTutorial: Convincing a Reader to Read Your Text|
|#WednesdayWrite||Each post asks students to consider how you would handle a specific situation in the workplace or in the course.||#WednesdayWrite: Share Your Workplace Writing Secrets|
|#ThursdayThought||Every post presents an infographic or similar graphic about communication and writing in the workplace.|
#ThursdayThought: Know Your Sources
|#FridayFact||These posts shares a specific fact about writing in the workplace, which students can compare to what they know about their career fields.||#FridayFact: Informative Headings Help Readers|
|#WeekendWatch||Every weekend post presents a video relevant to what we are covering in class or something else related to writing in the workplace.||#WeekendWatch: Crafting Strong Email Messsages|
*Because of the way our course management system (CMS) works, I cannot link to the examples.
Assessment for the Daily Discussion Posts
Students grade their own interaction with the Daily Discussion Posts by completing a weekly self-assessment, set up as a True/False quiz in our CMS. The self-assessment questions ask students to indicate what they have read and how many replies they have made. They also confirm that they have completed the self-assessment in accordance with the university’s honor code. When they submit their self-assessments, the points are recorded in the CMS grade book automatically.
I spot check students' work, but I trust them to ensure that they record their participation honestly. In the semesters that I have used this system, I have only found one student who made a false claim. These self-assessments let me focus my attention on giving students feedback, rather than assigning letter grades.
Admittedly, these posts required a lot of work the first term that I used them. Writing five different posts a week took an hour or two each day. Now that I have a collection of posts, however, all I have to do is update and revise the posts. I can usually set up the entire week in an hour.
All in all, these Daily Discussion Posts give students extra resources and a chance to interact in a timely manner, and even more importantly from my perspective, they encourage students to check in on the course frequently.
What strategies do you use to engage students and motivate regular participation in your classes? I would love to hear your ideas. Just leave me a comment below.
Photo credit: Detail from “a cold, rainy night at Starbucks” by Robert Couse-Baker on Flickr, used under a CC-BY 2.0 license.
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