Lecturer vignettes

I think the students are taking a lot more notice of what people are saying and responding a lot more appropriately, and rather than just putting on their own comments just for the sake of having to pass a course, they’re actually taking note of what people are writing and adding their own thoughts.

Lecturer vignettes

Vignette 1: Jillian, sessional tutor in a PG flexible course

New to the course, new to teaching online, new to facilitating discussion forums

Jillian is a sessional tutor who works full time elsewhere and is employed on a casual basis at the university in a flexibly delivered PG course. This is the first time she has taught online and she is new to this particular subject, having neither taught it, nor completed it during her own Masters studies. The class is small – about 8 students with half of these being international. While the content and discussion tasks are online, there are three face-to-face meetings offered throughout the semester for any students who are able to attend. Jillian reflects that ‘some of the students have really been appreciative of that – just to be able to make that connection’. The course was duplicated from previous years onto the learning platform, so the content, discussion tasks and online communicative strategies were all in place when she began. Jillian had received no ‘training’ for teaching online, nor in how to facilitate forum discussions.

Jillian describes her previous experience of facilitating online discussions as ‘limited’. She explains that when she was doing her Masters in Education some years ago the coordinators were ‘just bringing in the whole concept of forums’. In light of her limited experience as a facilitator and participant in online discussions, Jillian finds the communicative strategies very helpful, especially as they have given her some idea of knowing what is expected of her as a tutor. She also appreciates that the strategies provide students with clear expectations for participating meaningfully in the discussions around topic-related issues – ‘otherwise I don’t think anyone would say anything … people are very busy, and you know a lot of them are working part time or full time so I don’t think they would just get online and post a comment’.

Having clarity around what’s expected of them was important for some of the international students in Jillian’s class, who she noticed can be ‘a bit apprehensive’ about contributing to the forums. She laughs when she describes her first impression of the strategies - ‘they’re really basic … and I felt like ‘Oh, I’m back in school!’’ Having said that, she reflects that forum discussion is a different way of communicating, and not everyone communicates in the same way. Also even if their written English is good, some students find forum discussion difficult because ‘it’s conversational as well’.

She explains this a bit more,

I think having those case studies and having the prompting with the clear expectations, gives really good grounding, the guidelines give good grounding for the students so they know exactly what’s expected of them … and for me too, coming in as a new tutor you know and particularly in the online capacity it sort of gave me an idea of what I was meant to be assisting them with and responding to, so yeah its been very good …


Jillian describes some of benefits that the communicative strategies made to the learning atmosphere as discussion unfolded in the forums,

I think that discussion is a lot more polite, if you could say that, and you do respond to the actual person. I can see it’s ‘thanks for your response, I agree with you’, or ‘I disagree’. It is more personable if you could call it that and I think it does create that sort of contact it’s not just that ‘other’ person at the other end. A bit more friendly


and,

I think the students are taking a lot more notice of what people are saying and responding a lot more appropriately, and rather than just putting on their own comments just for the sake of having to pass a course, they’re actually taking note of what people are writing and adding their own thoughts.


In all, Jillian feels that her ‘whole expectation of online learning has changed’ which is particularly significant given she has ‘never tutored an online subject before … the whole concept is very new to me’. The principles of fostering online discussion embedded into the course have been ‘a really good grounding … [that] works and it gives everyone a clear expectation’

Note: only the online communicative strategies were in place – the The Guide was in the process of being developed



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.

Learn More

Student Perspectives

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


Learn More

Lecturer Vignettes

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

Learn More

Resources

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.

Learn More