Discussion participation

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Discussion Participation

The primary teaching and learning activity in this class is active participation in student-led discussions for each module topic in the course. In these discussions, each student poses "critical thinking" questions based on some important issue from the course readings, then facilitates a class discussion on that issue.

For these discussions, each student must facilitate a discussion based upon their questions, and also participate in the discussions facilitated by other students. By being an active "discussant" in the specified content-related discussions per topic, each student must engage in depth with the content of every module.

  • Reply
  • Add a topic
  • display discussion topic posts
  • subscribe to discussions


Academic Integrity - For these discussions, your post should be your personal description of why YOU think this web article is important. You are providing the link so others can go to the article and read the information there. Why is it worth their time to check out the site that you are recommending? Many students are uncomfortable posting their own words and it is tempting to just copy and paste the description of a web article from information on the site. If you do this you must put it in quotes and acknowledging that these are the words of others. If you are copying something - say so. The original author has a right to the credit. That is what academic integrity is all about.



Posting Your Comments

Your discussion posts must introduce relevant, new information. Your job here is to provide new information which is appropriate to the issue being discussed.

  • Is your comment accurate?
  • Is it relevant to the issue under discussion?
  • Have you taught us anything new?
  • Have you added to the academic atmosphere of this course?

It is OK to respond with non-informative comments. In fact, sometimes it is a good idea to thank someone for their assistance or simply let them know that you agree with what they have said. Non-academic comments such as these can add valuable social presence to the course, and help to create a sense of collegiality. However, only comments that add knowledge will be graded.

If you copy/paste information from websites or other sources, you must say that this is a quote and provide the citation.



Discussion forum emails

The automatic emailing of postings is a handy feature, but it gets annoying. Here are some controls available to you.

  • Edit your Profile - Your Moodle Profile can be modified by you so Moodle will direct some actions to your specifications. From your Profile, you can change several settings associated with emails and posts.

To access your Profile, click on Profile in the left navigation menu on the main course page. Then make sure the Advanced options - near the top right is on, so you see all these options.

Suggested Profile settings:

  • Email digest type: Subjects (daily email with subjects only)
  • Forum auto-subscribe: No, don't automatically subscribe me to forums
  • Forum tracking: Yes, highlight new posts for me


Discussion forum subscription

  • See the discussion forum controls - top right of each discussion forum
  • Unsubscribe to a specific forum to stop all notification from that forum.
  • Use tracking to see the number of unread posts in each forum.


Individual forums

Every discussion forum gives you the option to subscribe or unsubscribe to that forum. If you don't want to be notified every time someone posts to the forum, "unsubscribe" to the forum.

  • Unsubscribe from this forum - this option appears in the top right area of the forum screen - click the link to switch between subscribe and unsubscribe


Forum notification options

  • Have the setting for displaying unread posting on - this helps a lot. You will see a note on the front page and check marks on the discussion page indicating that new messages have been posted and where. You can organize the post displays to show new posts first and they will have a heavy box around them. This will make finding unread posts easier.
  • You can subscribe and set your profile to digest - you will get one email per day maximum if people post to the old discussion.
  • Explore the options to see what combination work best for you. Personally, I have the tracking on and I usually have discussions display with the newest posts first. But you may find that you like some combination of options better. Try different things until you find what works for YOU.
  • Others will likely contribute to discussions as due date approaches - there will always be students who leave everything until the last minute, but you will know who they are.
  • Post to Discussion 1, even if you are late joining the class, because it is so important to have some introduction information about all students. It is also important to ensure that all students have figured out the basics of online learning and Moodle functions.
  • There is a Questions? forum in the introduction area at the top of the main course page. Use this to ask questions that can be viewed and answered by anyone in the course. Please share ideas for reading and tracking forum discussions.


Facilitating an Online Discussion

In most of the modules, each student must facilitate discussions based on a website and/or the chapter topic.

Start with a good "critical thinking" question - one that requires readers to really think about the issue being discussed. Your question should be open-ended so replies can not be Yes or No.

As other students respond to your question, reply to their comments. The idea is to get a discussion going - more than just a couple of comments. Consider answering a question with another question.

Facilitate a discussion - Write a question based on your reading from the textbook and post it to the discussion. Participate in at least 2 other dicussions. In the discussions, consider these questions. What is the impact on society? Why is this important?

Write a discussion question for this chapter of the textbook. Read the questions already posted, and do not repeat a question asked by another student. Your question should relate directly to an issue discussed in the text, and should require a thoughtful response. Don't ask a question which can be answered by looking the answer up. Attitude, opinion, and application questions usually get thoughtful responses. Participation in a student led discussion consists of the following 4 steps:

  • Post your original question in Student Discussion Questions . This must be done within the first two days the module is active. This will be your topic - you will be the discussion leader. Your job is to facilitate this discussion and get as much information from the other participants as you can that relates to the question you have asked.
  • Read the questions posted by the other students, and respond to at least two of them. Choose the topics you think will be the most interesting and beneficial to you. You will be a participant in these discussions. Provide another viewpoint or add additional information. Your responses should be 2-3 sentences.
  • Respond to every student who responds to you. Do this in your own topic as well as the other topics you are participating in.
  • Continue participating in the threads until the module is over.

Note: If other students are not selecting your thread to participate in, perhaps it is because your question is too complex, confusing, or uninteresting. In this case, submit another question.


Discussion Grading

Discussions have morphed from a course add-on to a major component of the course communication. Some discussion topics are "assignments" posted to the discussions so there is more visibility for your work and an opportunity for class discussion about important topics that are highlighted in your work.

There are multiple discussion topics within the Discussion forum for each module in the course. Your discussion participation grade for the week is the sum of the individual topic posting grades.

Each week, there are points for the quantity and quality of your posts. If you have participated in all the discussions as outlined in the Assignments, and your posts are on-time, thoughtful, and expressed in college level writing, your discussion participation grade for the week will be recorded as the maximum for the week's discussion participation.

As there are several ways to gain and deduct points, your total may be greater than the maximum, but you can't get more than the maximum. You will not get full points for any of the following reasons.

  • You do not include all the required elements
  • There are significant writing problems
  • The submissions are late

There are usually more points possible than the maximum recorded. This means that you could get full points, even though you missed some points in one or more of the discussion topics. And some posts are not graded, so even if you post in every topic, you may not get maximum points.

  • For example - if there are 4 topics in the forum and the total for the forum is 10, each discussion topic maximum may be 0-5 depending on the amount of work. If you contribute to all the topics you might have 3/10, 2/10, 4/10, and 3/10, the sum is 12 but your grade total for the forum will be 10/10 - the maximum.

This is a pretty general overview, so if you have specific questions about a discussion grade, please ask.


Discussion Rubric

Grading Criteria

  • Excellent - The comment is accurate, original, relevant, teaches us something new, and is well written. Four point comments add substantial teaching presence to the course, and stimulate additional thought about the issue under discussion.
  • Above Average - The comment lacks at least one of the above qualifiers, but is above average in quality. A three point comment makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the issue being discussed.
  • Average - The comment lacks 2-3 of the required qualities. Comments which are based on personal opinion or personal experience often fall within this category.
  • Minimal - The comment presents little or no new information. However, one point comments may provide important social presence and contribute to a collegial atmosphere.
  • Unacceptable - The comment adds no value to the discussion.


The post subject field is used to give a mini-summary of your post. Each post should have a unique title. This helps others reading or reviewing the discussion thread. Points may be deducted if the Subject is left to the default.

  • Excellent Subject - The subject field conveys the main point of the comment. The reader clearly understands the main point of the comment before reading it.
  • Minimal Subject - The subject filed provides keyword(s) only. The reader knows the general area that the comment deals with.
  • Subject field is unacceptable - The subject field provides little or no information about the comment. Or, the Subject is left as the Catalyst default.

Remember: Each discussion participation assignment is graded separately. There are usually multiple discussions assignments in each lesson.


Informal Discussions

The course includes formal class discussions relating to weekly topics. We start with Introductions, Expectations and Learning Styles.

But what about all the casual discussions? Just like you chat with other people in your on-campus classes, you need to have a way to communicate with your online classmates. There are discussion areas setup for your use.


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