Fostering collegial student relationships in an online environment can be one of the most challenging tasks facing an instructor. I am often asked: How can we get students to interact with each other as frequently as they do in a traditional brick-and-mortar classroom? What are some best practices by which online instructors have facilitated student-to-student engagement? And, more practically, what can we do right now to implement these techniques in the classroom? Fortunately for those of us using LaunchPad, there are many ways to encourage this kind of dialogue, features like the discussion board, that are already built into the platform.
Perhaps the most important, the discussion board tool allows students the ability to post original contributions while also letting them provide feedback to their peers. Indeed, as Krentler and Willis-Flurry (2005) discovered, the implementation of this kind of technology in the classroom does actually empirically increase student learning. While not assigned by default, an instructor can easily implement the discussion board feature into any or all of the chapters and modules. By clicking on “Add to this Unit” the instructor can select the discussion board function and post an appropriate content prompt revolving around the material covered in that specific chapter.
It is often helpful for the instructor to construct a prompt that not merely asks the students their opinion on a certain matter - say, do you believe that nature or nurture is the cause of psychological abnormality and suffering? Rather, by including a video clip or a link to a research article, the instructor can help the students more critically and conceptually engage with the material (Harman & Koohang, 2005). That is, by encouraging students to analyze a specific pedagogical object or artifact, they, by extension, are able better to construct a communal narrative that revolves around that very task. Taking a step further, the instructor can also provide ongoing and dynamic feedback while the discussion board has not passed the due date set in LaunchPad. This has the benefit of helping to steer the dialogue in a certain way, acting as an opportunity for student learning, while also fostering class cohesion and identity.
The importance of student collaboration and building collegiality becomes all the more pressing in a digital classroom. As a result, instructors will find the discussion board option in LaunchPad to be a very welcomed feature. In fact, I have suggested some ways in which educators can implement this into their curricula. However, what I have found after teaching online for the last 8 years is that the more creative we can get with using functions like the discussion board, the more seamless the online experience and the more efficacious the actual learning.
Harma, K. & Koohand, A. (2005). Discussion board: A learning object. Interdisciplinary Journal of E-Learning and Learning Objects, 1(1), 67-77. Informing Science Institute. Retrieved September 13, 2019 from https://www.learntechlib.org/p/44867/
Krentler, K. A. & Willis-Flurry, L. A. (2005). Does technology enhance actual student learning? The case of online discussion boards. Journal of Education for Business, 20(6), 316-321.
Jacob W. Glazier, PhD, LPC, NCC is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Positive Human Development and Social Change at Life University and an online Adjunct Professor in the Department of Applied Psychology at New York University – Steinhardt. He provides therapy services online for BetterHelp and its associated sites as a licensed professional counselor.