Discussions that matter
Introducing discussion activities and opportunities for applying newly acquired knowledge is key to keep students engaged. This is well-suited for both synchronous and asynchronous modes of teaching. Yammer in Microsoft 365 or Discussions in Blackboard are good places to start. You can check this short clip I made that shows you how to integrate Yammer into Blackboard. The chat function in Blacboard Collaborate or in MS Teams is another way to get students to participate in live teaching events.
To facilitate small group collaboration, you can create breakout groups in Blackboard that are separate from the main room and assign attendees to them. It is important to become familiar with this possibility ahead of your teaching, as it will be a very good way to replicate the kinds of student-to-student interactions that would have taken place face-to-face and that support peer-to-peer teaching and learning.
The value of online participation can be captured by a mark. Depending on the role that it plays in your teaching, you could consider giving 5% to 10% of the overall mark to this type of activity. Incentives of this kind may help students to be more aware of the need to make meaningful and constructive contributions.
Some guidelines to set expectations and clarity about the kinds of exchanges that you are seeking to generate would help the learners enrolled in your module. As you will be evaluating the quality of the online conversations as well as the content, these exchanges that develop are crucial to be able to address any issues as they become apparent. These insights could be the base for directing the synchronous teaching time to meaningful teaching interventions.
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