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The discussion board is one of the great features of LaunchPad that is not enabled by default and can sometimes go unnoticed. In this blog post, I hope to show you how to take advantage of this really useful pedagogical tool as well as offer my own insights as an instructor on how I use discussion boards, and what I have found as helpful in the past. Discussion boards are especially essential if you are using LaunchPad for an entirely online course or as your primary LMS platform. By integrating discussion board posts, responses, and feedback directly into the chapter module, the student gets a seamless learning experience being able to click through the content all in the same place.
I will assume that you have a basic understanding of how to set-up and log into your LaunchPad (if not, there are excellent tutorial videos and blog posts on this site as well as others). On the main screen, under each chapter or module, you will see a button that says "Add to this Unit" - when you click on it, you will get the option to "Create new..."
Clicking on "Create new..." gives you the "Add a new assignment" window. You will notice that I circled in yellow the discussion board option. Once clicking on it, a blank discussion board is added to your chapter or module.
If the screenshots are any indication, I tend to place my discussion boards at the end of the chapter or module. There are really two reasons why I do this: First, it makes sense that applied learning should come after the more didactic material presented during the assignments and eBook. This gives the student a chance to show off what they have learned. Second, I have found that by being at the end of the chapter (and being worth 10 points, a large portion of the chapter grade), the student engages more rigorously with the material. I weight my discussion boards in this way in order to encourage original and substantive thinking - stressing that a couple sentences as a response is never going to be sufficient.
Once clicking on what I have labeled as the "Chapter 7 Discussion" the below window will appear in LaunchPad. You will notice that this image is taken from a course that I have taught in developmental psychology. I create my discussion post prompts by scanning for the main themes of the chapter and trying to have the students integrate them with other major topics that we have covered in the past. Here, you will see that I ask them to revisit the nature/nurture debate (discussed in earlier chapters) but this time in terms of autism spectrum disorder. My goal here is to push the students to engage critically with the material - not necessarily taking either the nurture or nature side but being able to cogently argue for each side of the paradigm.
When the posts are expanded, you can see the entire original contribution done by the student as well as the two responses that I require as part of their grading. This is helpful because the students are able to click through and easily see what post has responses, which ones don't, or whose post may be exemplary - garnering several responses or a longer discussion. While the below image is taken from my instructor view, the student sees a very similar layout and user interface.
Strickly accessible to instructors, in the image below, the "Results" button lets the professor grade the posts easily and efficiently. On the main page, you will see the various statistics for this particular discussion post allowing you - if you want - to curve or alter the assignment grading. Or, this can also be useful if you want to see how well the students performed on this assignment thereby perhaps providing feedback regarding the retention of the chapter content or the efficacy of the discussion prompt.
By clicking on the student name (redacted below), you can see where I circled in yellow the quick information that LaunchPad provides about the number of posts the student has completed and their number of replies. This allows me to quickly see if the student has met the criteria of one original post and two replies to their classmates. Furthermore, it brings up all of the students' responses so that I can grade them in one place - as opposed to having to search through all of the posts for this specific student. Not pictured but at the bottom of this screen, there is a place for the instructor to leave direct feedback to a particular student. This is really useful in providing individual instruction to a student that may be struggling with some of the chapter concepts or if you want to address a specific issue with the student's discussion board post; for example, 'you forgot to respond to your classmates' or 'the authoritative parenting style has shown to be most efficacious for healthy development and functioning, not the authoritarian style (see page 211)'.
I hope that I have given some useful tips that will help you integrate discussion board assignments into your LaunchPad course! From my past experience, I can for certain say that students really appreciate having all of the assigned content grouped together in one place. Plus, it makes for a more streamlined grading and teaching process.
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