Active Participation in PhysicsForums May Help With Online Courses

In summary, online classes are best enjoyed when students are able to participate effectively and sustain a discussion.
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ZapperZ
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I created a thread earlier on something a student can do for an online course in STEM. Here's another one, and this time, it applies to both students and instructors in equal measures.

One of the most important components of online classes is the Discussion forum. If you have participated in a true online course, not just makeshift ones due to the pandemic, you would have encountered the extensive use of Discussion forums as a means to get students to participate, interact, present ideas, ask questions, etc... between themselves and with the instructor. Most well-designed online classes will make use of the Discussion forum extensively, especially if they are ran in an asynchronous mode. So being comfortable in involving oneself in such a Discussion forum is crucial to get the most out of an online class. This applies to both students and instructors.

Now, one would think that many students, especially Millennials, should be familiar and can easily adapt to such a format. After all, they grew up in a world of Facebook, Instagrams, Twitter, etc... But based from my experience as someone who had tried to run such Discussion forums in a number of courses' Learning Management System (LMS), this is not the case. In fact, the majority of students are not able to participate effectively in such a forum. They do not have the skill to transfer what are in their heads into words, and do not have the ability to look at what they wrote and evaluate if it is clear enough from the perspective of another person. Sounds familiar?

But it isn't just content. There is a lack of ability to sustain a discussion. I often follow up something a student had posted, usually with questions and hints to see if the student is able to carry the idea through. More often than not, the discussion ends there, leaving the idea only half-baked. I can't tell if the student is unable to continue, or if he/she has understood the content, or if the student just lost interest after he/she had already fulfilled the minimum requirement for discussion participation for that week. Sounds familiar?

And then there is the general concept of discussion forums. Anyone who has been on PF long enough will be aware of the "atmosphere", of what is involved when we have such asynchronous discussion forum. Various topics often cross one another within a single thread, and the ability to keep focus can be difficult but paramount to keep on track of the topic. Staying away too long from a thread that one is involved with is seldom a good idea, especially when the topic can quickly get away from you. I find that students are often lost at how to pick up a thread right in the middle of it, especially when one or two other students are dominating the discussion. Sounds familiar?

But the issue of being comfortable with discussion forums is not confined only to students. Many instructors are also unfamiliar with this concepts, especially those who were thrust into running online classes due to school closures. Even instructors who have had online training are often uncomfortable with being "in charge" of their own discussion forums. It requires the instructor to wear many hats: as moderator, subject matter expert, facilitator, guidance counselor, cheerleader, game-show host, etc... Sounds familiar?

I have been on PF since January, 2004 (yikes, THAT long?), and was a Mentor/Moderator for a few years. Before that, I was actively involved in UseNet and several BBSs (remember those?). So I have had a long history with online conversations and discussions. I have personally found that my experience with being on PF all these years has improved and refined my skills at communicating via such a format, i.e. discussion forum. And let's be clear about this. It is a skill. It is not something that can be taught. It is something that can only be acquired over time, via repetition, and after a few trials and errors. Trying to convey something on PF is no different than trying to convey something on your course's discussion forum. And the fact that PF has all these rules that require high-quality posts (use proper sentences, no text-speak, make specific references/citations, etc.) means that it has almost the same standards as what you expect in an online course's discussion forum.

I also realized that my stint as moderator/mentor on those BBSs and on PF honed my skills at running such a discussion forum. One has to evaluate when one should insert oneself into the discussion to help it along, or how to come up with new topics and new discussion points to keep the students' interest. And of course, one has to deal with student-student interactions in the discussion, no different than dealing with the numerous members interaction here on PF.

I did not participate on PF to improve my online communication skills. I also did not anticipate that I would to employ such skills to be able to effectively run my classes. But my years of PF involvement has resulted in this highly-beneficial skill. I am not the least-bit uncomfortable with online discussions. In fact, I feel quite at home with them, and able to convey not only my ideas, but also a few degrees of emotion (humor, happiness, anger (?), etc...) something that many people find difficult to express online. This is all thanks to years of practice on here.

Now I'm not saying that it'll take you years of practice before you can be as good. However, PF is a terrific place to hone your skills at online communications, besides learning about stuff and getting your questions answered. If you pay attention, you will notice differences between awful posts, good posts, and terrific posts. And if you care, you will try to learn what to do and what not to do. Whether you are a student or an instructor, frequent participation in PF may actually improve your skill to actively participate in your online courses. At the very least, you will be comfortable with that format to not consider it to be another hurdle to get by.

Zz.
 
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I'm, sorry, that's too much for me to read. Can you break it up to 140 character tweets?
 
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ZapperZ said:
...
Now, one would think that many students, especially Millennials, should be familiar and can easily adapt to such a format. After all, they grew up in a world of Facebook, Instagrams, Twitter, etc... But based from my experience as someone who had tried to run such Discussion forums in a number of courses' Learning Management System (LMS), this is not the case. In fact, the majority of students are not able to participate effectively in such a forum. They do not have the skill to transfer what are in their heads into words, and do not have the ability to look at what they wrote and evaluate if it is clear enough from the perspective of another person. Sounds familiar?

But it isn't just content. There is a lack of ability to sustain a discussion. I often follow up something a student had posted, usually with questions and hints to see if the student is able to carry the idea through. More often than not, the discussion ends there, leaving the idea only half-baked. I can't tell if the student is unable to continue, or if he/she has understood the content, or if the student just lost interest after he/she had already fulfilled the minimum requirement for discussion participation for that week. Sounds familiar?...

I find the above to be very interesting.
Thank you.
 
  • #4
ZapperZ said:
Now, one would think that many students, especially Millennials, should be familiar and can easily adapt to such a format. After all, they grew up in a world of Facebook, Instagrams, Twitter, etc... But based from my experience as someone who had tried to run such Discussion forums in a number of courses' Learning Management System (LMS), this is not the case. In fact, the majority of students are not able to participate effectively in such a forum. They do not have the skill to transfer what are in their heads into words, and do not have the ability to look at what they wrote and evaluate if it is clear enough from the perspective of another person. Sounds familiar?
That much seems like it means, many students do not yet have good enough reading & writing skills for participating well in an online discussion forum. As you later may have indicated, that kind of read & write discussion skill comes with maturity and experience.
 
  • #5
ZapperZ said:
Now, one would think that many students, especially Millennials, should be familiar and can easily adapt to such a format. After all, they grew up in a world of Facebook, Instagrams, Twitter, etc... But based from my experience as someone who had tried to run such Discussion forums in a number of courses' Learning Management System (LMS), this is not the case. In fact, the majority of students are not able to participate effectively in such a forum. They do not have the skill to transfer what are in their heads into words, and do not have the ability to look at what they wrote and evaluate if it is clear enough from the perspective of another person. Sounds familiar?
<<Emphasis added>> Add in texting, and I would say that such modes of communication are heavily responsible for poor communications skills. These modes place high priority on rapid-fire, spontaneous, short exchanges, rather than well thought-out, carefully plotted communications. It's a pity that e-mail has fallen out of favor. That at least provided better opportunity for reflection, composition, review, and editing ... before hitting "Send".
 
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I decided to shore up my point by citing a few sources in which discussion forum participation connected to coursework, be it online or face-to-face, is an essential part of the course and may be an indicator of the final grades that a student receive.

The first one is the study on the correlation between discussion forum participation and academic performance:
https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Sahar_Voghoei/publication/337869869_University_Online_Courses_Correlation_between_Students%27_Participation_Rate_and_Academic_Performance/links/5defc617a6fdcc2837175300/University-Online-Courses-Correlation-between-Students-Participation-Rate-and-Academic-Performance.pdf

While the second is actually a Ph.D thesis on the effectiveness of online discussion forums as a supplement in face-to-face classes.
https://scholarworks.lib.csusb.edu/etd/1106/

There are strong evidence that discussion forum participation associated with classes of any modality can be a great benefit to students. So to do well in these courses, you should be an active participants in the discussion forums in those classes. To be an effective participants in those discussion forums, you need to be comfortable with communicating in such a manner and be a good communicator using such a format. This is where PF becomes extremely useful as your practice ground.

Zz.
 

Related to Active Participation in PhysicsForums May Help With Online Courses

What is the benefit of actively participating in PhysicsForums for online courses?

Active participation in PhysicsForums can provide a variety of benefits for online courses. By engaging in discussions and asking questions, students can gain a deeper understanding of the course material. They can also receive helpful feedback from other members and instructors, which can improve their performance in the course. Additionally, participating in PhysicsForums can help students develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

How can participating in PhysicsForums improve my grades in online courses?

Active participation in PhysicsForums can improve grades in online courses in several ways. By engaging in discussions and asking questions, students can gain a better understanding of the course material, which can lead to improved performance on assignments and exams. Additionally, receiving feedback from other members and instructors can help students identify and correct any misunderstandings they may have about the material.

What types of online courses can benefit from active participation in PhysicsForums?

Active participation in PhysicsForums can benefit a wide range of online courses, including physics, mathematics, engineering, and other STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) subjects. However, the platform can also be useful for courses in other fields, such as economics or psychology, as it encourages critical thinking and problem-solving skills that can be applied to various subjects.

How can I effectively participate in PhysicsForums for my online course?

To effectively participate in PhysicsForums for your online course, it is important to actively engage in discussions and ask questions. Make sure to read and understand the guidelines and rules of the forum, and be respectful of other members. It can also be helpful to regularly check for new posts and contribute to discussions that align with your interests and areas of expertise.

Are there any potential drawbacks to participating in PhysicsForums for online courses?

While participating in PhysicsForums can have many benefits, there are also potential drawbacks to consider. For example, it can be time-consuming to keep up with discussions and contribute regularly. Additionally, it is important to be mindful of the information and advice given by other members, as it may not always be accurate. It is always best to double-check information and consult with your instructor before making any major decisions based on forum discussions.

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