Monday, September 24, 2007

Facilitation Techniques for Organizational Functions

Spur participation when it is lagging. For example, request direct comments and responses to the issues discussed (Eisley 1991).

Require regular participation. To maintain an active dialogue, it is necessary to exhort students to log on at least twice a week. One feasible mechanism to handle this is the weekly quiz (Hiltz 1988).

Use response activities. The response activity feature of the EIES conferencing system was developed to force active participation. Here, each student must post a response to a question before access to the other answers is granted (Hiltz 1988).

Move misplaced content. Immediately move contributions under a wrong discussion heading (Eisley 1991).

Handle tangents appropriately. Refer inappropriate digressions to another conference, or guide the students back to the original topic (Eisley 1991).

Vary participation. Ask the overly outspoken privately to wait a few responses before contributing. In the same way, ask less outspoken individuals to participate more actively, and call on specific individuals just as a teacher might call on a student in a traditional class (Eisley 1991).

Occasionally have a student conduct the discussion. Students could take turns as assistant moderators (Eisley 1991).

Give a decisive end to each discussion. Conclude discussions that drag on after they have served their purpose. Such discussions will distract from other topics on which students should focus (Eisley 1991).

Invite visiting experts. Guest experts may join the conference, and students may be asked to present questions to the visitor (Hiltz 1988).

Be patient. Be prepared to wait several days for comments and responses, and don't rush in to fill every silence with moderator contributions (Feenberg 1989b).

Don't overload. Post about one long comment a day. If the students have much to offer, the moderator should contribute less so that the slower participants can keep up (Feenberg 1989b).

Read the status report daily. Don't let too many of the participants fall far behind (Feenberg 1989b).

Don't lecture. Use open-ended remarks, examples, and weaving. An elaborate, logically coherent sequence of comments yields silence (Feenberg 1989b).

Prompt frequently. Use private messages to urge participants to take part in the discussion, to initiate debates, and to solicit suggestions (Feenberg 1989b).

Use simple assignments. Don't be apprehensive about presenting assignments to the group, but keep the threshold of participation low (Feenberg 1989b).

Be clear. Begin with an opening comment that succinctly states the conference topic and the moderator's initial expectations and continue to clarify the topic and the expectations as the conference proceeds (Feenberg 1989b).

Set up student interaction. Encourage participants to address each other as well as the moderator (Feenberg 1989b).

Synchronize and resynchronize. Make sure everyone begins concurrently and offer periodic occasions to restart in unison (Feenberg 1989b).

Remember the "law" of proportionality. Recall that faculty generally contribute about one quarter to one half the online material (Feenberg 1989b).

Take the procedural initiative. Avoid frustrating procedural discussions by providing groups with strong procedural leadership (Feenberg 1989b).

Facilitation Techniques for Social Functions

Reinforce good discussant behaviors. Say, for example, thank you to students who respond effectively online (Eisley 1991).

Request change in poor discussant behaviors. For example, tactfully point out that the class should be more directly responsive to each other's comments (Eisley 1991).

Hang loose. Don't present an elaborate seminar agenda at the outset, just follow the flow of the conversation while guiding it toward the subject (Feenberg 1989b).

Be responsive. Respond swiftly to every contribution either by posting a personal message to the contributor or by referring to the author's comment in the conference (Feenberg 1989b).

Request metacomments. Invite participants to express how they feel about the course within the conference (Feenberg 1989b).

Facilitation Techniques for Intellectual Functions

Summarize the discussion. If the discussion is an especially lengthy one, summarize occasionally (Eisley 1991).

Write weaving comments. Summarize the state of the conference every week or two as a means of focusing discussion (Feenberg 1989b).

Respond to student contributions and weave them together. It is not advisable to respond to each individual contribution; it is better to respond to several at once by weaving them together. Do refer to students by name (Hiltz 1988).

Make the material relevant. The course material could be made more relevant by developing questions and assignments that relate to student experiences and current events (Hiltz 1988).

Present conflicting opinions. Conflicting opinions could be exposed through instructors with different backgrounds, debates, and peer critique (Hiltz 1988).

Request responses. The instructor may ask individual students to comment on specific issues that are relevant to their specific backgrounds (Hiltz 1988).

Simulate an agent provocateur. By using a pen name, instructors can question or challenge their own entries. This device could be used to set up a discussion or to set an example for student inquiries (Hiltz 1988).

Be objective. Don't generalize about a conference without considering the contributions with regard to contents, author, and time of announcement (Feenberg 1989b).

Expect less. Be content if the moderator accomplishes to communicate two or three good major points in the course of a month of discussion (Feenberg 1989b).

Don't rely on off-line materials. The discussion must be largely self-contained to succeed, so summarize assigned readings online (Feenberg 1989b).

Facilitation of Assessment Functions

Assessment can be done in several ways. According to Thorpe (1987, 11) the Open University, UK used in-text questions (ITQs) for self-assessment, computer-marked assignments (CMAs), and tutor-marked assignments (TMAs). Here, peer assessment is included as a fourth category of assessment.

ITQs are developed for self-assessment. For example, they could include questions which ask the students to review, revise, or summarize what they have learned from the course material. As a guide to self-assessment, the course material could include suggested solutions and discussion of pitfalls.

CMAs are made for computer assessment. They are typically multiple-choice questions, and Thorpe (1987, 15) stated that over 90 percent of the CMA question sets at the Open University have been of the multiple-choice type. CMAs should be well suited for CMC since both technologies are based on computers.

TMAs are made for tutor assessment. These could take the form of an essay or a problem to solve. Thorpe (1987, 16) wrote that the TMAs were the most important elements of the continuous assessment part of all undergraduate courses at the Open University. Obviously, TMAs could be a major contribution to the teacher workload, and should therefore be carefully designed with this in mind.

Peer assessment is included as a fourth category of assessment in this study because CMC provides more opportunities for peer communication than the traditional distance education setting at the Open University as described by Thorpe (1987). Peer assessment can be both informal comments among students collaborating on an assignment and a more formal feedback on individual assignments.

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