What we looked at this week was Moderating forums.
The following was a very interesting statement:
'However, motivating students to use the online discussion groups is one of the main challenges. It is often the case that the better performing students engage in the debates, whilst the remainder of the class either offer limited debate or fail to engage at all. This lack of engagement could be due to poor motivation, confidence or fear of embarrassment at posting a message that the student perceives will be interpreted as being stupid by their peers. It is therefore important that the tutor manages the online discussion and its progression to ensure that viewpoints are constructively received and further debate can be instigated.' (http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/assets/hlst/documents/case_studies/using_online_discussion_forums_as_a_learning_tool.pdf, accessed 14 January 2012)
Now how would I motivate a participant to take part in forums? What could I, as a moderator, do to make sure that everyone is actively involved in the discussion and is not just reading the posts passively?
Having read the article from the University of Newcastle, I understood that what I need to do is to make the connection between the "student's sitting in front of the computer" and achieveing his/her professional goals. But how? When studying online you don't get the same feeling of a community as in a real class and you do not really feel that you know the people who are teaching or studying with you.
The question was left hanging in my head when I looked at our next task: creating a screencast . First of all it would make it easier for participants to use the platform, and secondly by hearing the tutor's voice they would feel the 'human' atmosphere too. I was not really happy with my first screencast of the wiki that I run for my students but I posted it anyway and promised myself to make another one shortly.
The next day I had to help my students to record themselves on Voxopop so I created another screencast, which I liked more.
But I still think that seeing the tutor/moderator and other participants will make it easier for everyone to start enjoying the online learning process. Maybe asking everyone to introduce themselves with a videocast and then setting a group work activity for them to collaborate and complete some kind of task will make things better. I don't know. I will need to try this idea and find out.