Discussion Tools

What are Discussion Tools

Discussion tools allow for conversation or dialogue between learners through mediums such as text, video, audio, and imagery. Posts are made by individual contributors, which can be viewed and responded to by others.

What is the purpose of Discussion Tools

The purpose of discussion tools is to facilitate conversation between learners or between learners and their instructor. Online discussions can be valuable for prompting reflection and articulation of one’s thoughts, for connecting with and responding to others, and engaging in dialogue.

How to use Discussion Tools

There are a variety of approaches to using discussion tools for teaching and learning. Overall, these tools are used to structure conversations around specific topics framed by instructors or the learners themselves. Here are a few considerations for incorporating discussion tools into your teaching:

  • Instructors should consider how they will clarify how students they are to engage with online discussions. Chen et al. (2017) suggest the establishing protocols that articulate “a well-defined goal, clear roles, and set rules for interactions, and specific deadlines for posting” (p. 166)
  • Instructors should plan to provide students with clear expectations of what will be required of their active participation in online discussions, i.e. through a rubric (Rovai, 2007)
  • Online discussion tools such as a forum can be a great place for students to connect with one another beyond just the course content. Providing a dedicated forum for social interaction and student-student support such as a “water cooler space” or a “cafe space” can serve to enhance opportunities for

Comparison

Centrally Supported Tool
Forums Tool - OWL
Piazza Twitter Centrally Supported Tool
VoiceThread
Functionality functionality rating for Forums Tool - OWL: 2 stars functionality rating for Piazza: 2 stars functionality rating for Twitter: 2 stars functionality rating for VoiceThread: 2 stars
Accessibility accessibility rating for Forums Tool - OWL: 2 stars accessibility rating for Piazza: 3 stars accessibility rating for Twitter: 2 stars accessibility rating for VoiceThread: 2 stars
Technical technical rating for Forums Tool - OWL: 3 stars technical rating for Piazza: 1 stars technical rating for Twitter: 1 stars technical rating for VoiceThread: 3 stars
Mobile Design mobile-design rating for Forums Tool - OWL: 1 stars mobile-design rating for Piazza: 1 stars mobile-design rating for Twitter: 2 stars mobile-design rating for VoiceThread: 2 stars
Usage & Account Set Up usage-account rating for Forums Tool - OWL: 3 stars usage-account rating for Piazza: 1 stars usage-account rating for Twitter: 2 stars usage-account rating for VoiceThread: 2 stars
Social Presence social-presence rating for Forums Tool - OWL: 2 stars social-presence rating for Piazza: 2 stars social-presence rating for Twitter: 2 stars social-presence rating for VoiceThread: 2 stars
Instructor Presence instructor-presence rating for Forums Tool - OWL: 3 stars instructor-presence rating for Piazza: 3 stars instructor-presence rating for Twitter: 2 stars instructor-presence rating for VoiceThread: 3 stars
Cognitive Presence cognitive-presence rating for Forums Tool - OWL: 2 stars cognitive-presence rating for Piazza: 2 stars cognitive-presence rating for Twitter: 2 stars cognitive-presence rating for VoiceThread: 3 stars

Literature

Theoretical and Research Literature

Rovai, A. P. (2007). Facilitating online discussions effectively. The Internet and Higher Education, 10(1), 77-88. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.iheduc.2006.10.001

A synthesis of the theoretical and research literature on practices for effectively facilitating asynchronous online discussions.

Exploratory Research Study

Chen, B., deNoyelles, A., Patton, K., & Zydney, J. (2017). Creating a community of inquiry in large-enrollment online courses: An exploratory study on the effect of protocols within online discussions, Online Learning 21(1), 165-188. doi: 10.24059/ olj.v21i1.816

This exploratory research study investigated the implementation of protocols for engaging in online discussions as a strategy to help students communicate more effectively, facilitate their learning process, and improve the quality of their work within online discussions.