In remote teaching and learning, Discussion Forums become extremely important as a replacement for live discussion in face-to-face classes. Online class forums are characterized by high quality discourse, because students have time to reflect and even research their thoughts before expressing them. Furthermore, forums are a medium where shy and vocally reticent students can find and express their voice, because the inhibiting effects of social pragmatics are minimized. Not surprisingly, the volume of discussion in online forums can become huge and almost unmanageable. This is where Forum Digests come in.

  • Forum digests can bring efficiency to your grading of student forums. Students do a culling evaluation for you, so you do not have to evaluate ALL of their posts.

  • In selecting forum posts for their digests, students must look at their own forum posts meta-cognitvely, and make evaluations as to their merit.

  • Students must also be able to explain the context and the importance of their chosen posts, which forces them to tie their thinking tightly to the course content.

  • Forum Digests can be a compact, straightforward artifact to adjudicate student grade appeals from students who feel that their forum participation grade is too low.

What are Forum Digests?

Forum digests are a means to have your students condense their numerous scattered posts into a compact manageable digest for you, and then to distill their meaning for you. They submit this digest to the Assignment Activity near semester’s end. It creates a compact, straightforward artifact to adjudicate student grade appeals from students who feel that their forum participation grade is too low.

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Simply put, the students are assigned to:

  • create a small portfolio of their n best posts throughout the semester,
  • explain the context of those posts in the ongoing discussion,
  • explain how their posts relate to the course objectives,
  • provide a rationale for why they chose these particular posts,
  • provide a description of how their digest demonstrates their growth during the semester.

These five expectations accomplish five things:

  • It brings up the general level of the students’ postings, because they know they have to submit a quality collection.
  • It forces students to articulate how their posts connect with course content.
  • It causes students to reflect critically and meta-cognitively on their posts, as they must choose the best ones to include in their digests.
  • The students are required to explain the context of their post - _**why**_ they believe it is a quality post in the context of the ongoing discussion.
  • It causes students to compare posts made early in the semester compared with posts made later in the semester, which allows them to observe their own intellectual and emotional growth.

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  • Instructions on how students can digest their posts in UR Courses

  • Criteria for judging the quality of student postings:
    • Posts are well developed responses that fully address and develop all aspects of the prompt;
    • Posts include factually correct, reflective and substantive contribution;
    • Posts’ references are properly cited, as required by the Instructor;
    • Posts contributes to discussion with clear, concise comments;
    • Posts advance discussion;
    • Posts never challenge classmates’ core cultural identity and so induce “the backfire effect”;
    • Posts demonstrate analysis of others’ posts; extend meaningful discussion by building on previous posts;
    • Posts are in the expected register of communication: casual, informal or formal;
    • Posts are respectful, observing the rules of netiquette.
  • Here are criteria for judging netiquette:
    • Use appropriate language. Excessive use of “chat” or “instant messaging” jargon is not acceptable for online discussions.
    • Read existing follow-up postings and don’t repeat what has already been said.
    • Inappropriate and/or offensive language, especially comments that might be construed as racist or sexist, are not appropriate and will be dealt with on an individual basis.
    • Be careful with humor and sarcasm. One person’s humorous comment can be another person’s boorish or degrading remark.
    • Do not use all caps in an online environment. Using all caps is considered SHOUTING.
    • Use proper spelling, capitalization, grammar, usage, and punctuation. Utilize the Spell Check feature.
    • Remember that there are other human beings reading your postings, so treat everyone with respect. Don’t post anything you wouldn’t be willing to communicate face to face.

(Adapted from: The University of Washington School of Medicine/Global Health/Department of Public Health Grading Rubric for Weekly Online Discussions)

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