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Here is a link to a PDF of the Project Report entitled Building capacity to scaffold online discussion: Enhancing students’ construction of knowledge and communication competencies

About the Project

The FOLD website was developed as part of an Australian Government Office for Learning and Teaching (OLT) Seed Grant entitled: Building capacity to scaffold online discussion: Enhancing students’ construction of knowledge and communication competencies (see Project Report). The aim of the project was to further develop and evaluate a The Guide which was developed and been trialled at the University of Wollongong since 2013 in flexible delivery, postgraduate and undergraduate courses in the area of Education. Typical comments during piloting were that the Guide gave lecturers more confidence when facilitating online discussion for learning. Some, who were initially reluctant facilitators of online discussions, were surprised that the use of the guide made the process actually enjoyable for them. Discourse analysis of forum discussions indicated the explicit communicative strategies enabled students to collectively develop ideas related to learning outcomes; helped to create positive social and emotional learning environments; and assisted students in the acquisition of online communication skills, which are transferrable to other situations.

Learning Together - Feeling Connected – Communicating - Building Understandings

The project draws on sound teaching and learning theories of sociocultural psychology and linguistics, namely language use in the context of learning. Sociocultural theory allows for conceptualisation of effective social interactions in relation to notions of scaffolding, collaborative reasoning and co-construction of knowledge in online environments. The linguistic theory provides the tools for identifying how the quality of learning (i.e. the knowledge constructed) is shaped by the language choices made. The discourse analysis also renders visible the interpersonal dialogic moves between participants which influence the building of trust, rapport and subject expertise, as well as the effect on students’ engagement in productive online discussion. Both social and learning related interactions are crucial for positive online teaching and learning experiences.

Fostering asynchronous online discussion is no easy matter. In the face-to-face classroom, teachers and students naturally draw on a range of meaning-making cues, such as facial expression, gesture, voice variation, body language etc. When discussion shifts to asynchronous communication the interactions are restricted to the mode of writing, and consequently it is written language that takes the ‘load’ of meaning-making. This means that more is at stake in terms of how participants initiate and sustain interactions, question and clarify information and respond to others’ ideas. Therefore, the resources in this site have been developed to provide explicit guidelines and strategies to increase awareness of language choices through which the academic content of the subject is collaboratively negotiated.

Click here view presentations by members of the project team, or go to References to access publications by team members and other literature used.

The Guide

Articulates a set of principles for fostering online discussion in higher education, based on theory, the literature and evidence from postgraduate and undergraduate flexibly delivered courses.

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Student Perspectives

Here we present students’ perspectives on their experience of online discussion, in which the teacher used the Guide.

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Lecturer Vignettes

These vignettes capture the essence of how the FOLD strategies have influenced lecturers’ experiences of facilitating online discussion.

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The resources in this section are the literature used to inform the Guide as well as presentations made by the Project Team. These will be added to as we continue to disseminate.

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