Foster communication and collaboration among students

Note:
The information here is part of a series intended to help instructors Keep teaching during prolonged campus or building closures.

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Overview

Fostering communication among students is important because it allows you to reproduce any collaboration you build into your course, and maintains a sense of community that can help keep students motivated to participate and learn. It helps if you already had some sort of student-to-student online activity (for example, Canvas Discussions) since students will be used to both the process and the tool.

Consider these suggestions when planning activities:

  • Use asynchronous tools when possible: Having students participate in live Zoom conversations can be useful, but scheduling can be a problem, and only a few students will actively participate (just like in your classroom). In such cases, using asynchronous tools like Canvas Discussions or CN Post allows students to participate on their own schedules. In addition, bandwidth requirements for discussion boards are far lower than for live video tools.
  • Link to clear goals and outcomes: Make sure there are clear purposes and outcomes for any student-to-student interaction. How does this activity help them meet course outcomes or prepare for other assignments?
  • Build in simple accountability: Find ways to make sure students are accountable for the work they do in any online discussions or collaborations. Assigning points for online discussion posts can be tedious, so some instructors ask for reflective statements where students detail their contributions and reflect on what they learned from the conversation.
  • Balance newness and need: As with any changed activities, you will need to balance the needs and benefits of online collaboration with the additional effort such collaboration will require on everyone else's part. Learning new technologies and procedures might be counterproductive, particularly in the short term, unless there is clear benefit.

Tools for fostering communication and collaboration

Canvas Discussions

If you haven't used the Discussions tool in Canvas, it's not difficult to begin. Once you come up with a topic, you can create a discussion and invite students to respond. Settings allow you to use threaded replies (helping students track their replies to each other's posts), make the discussion a graded assignment, and assign discussion to everyone or within groups. One particularly helpful option is to require students to post before seeing replies, which requires students to refine their own thoughts before seeing others'. Consider allowing students to "like" posts to encourage them to read posts and provide quick feedback to each other, in addition to posting replies.

You can use SpeedGrader to grade discussion posts. Each student's posts (including original posts and replies to others) are displayed for easy review. Replies are shown individually by default, but you can view them in context as well.

Note:
If you want to allow students to attach documents from within Discussion posts, you may need to edit the settings from the gear icon in the upper-right corner of the main "Discussions" page.

Resources

CourseNetworking (CN Post)

The CourseNetworking tool mimics some of the interaction style of social networking, but makes it easy to track participation and assign a grade (without having to meticulously review posts) via the Anar seed reward system. CN Post is enabled in Canvas by default, but if you previously hid it, you can re-enable it in the course navigation.

You can set up CN Post quickly, especially if you use the default Anar seed allocations for posts. Anar seeds reward not just quantity, but consistency of participation, and can be tied to the course grade as participation or as extra credit. You can post discussion topics yourself, but encourage your students to add their own posts with thoughts, links, or polls on themes related to the course content.

Resources

This is document arxy in the Knowledge Base.
Last modified on 2019-02-13 11:04:50.

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