Random Thoughts on Instructional Design
Periodically post “acknowledgment” messages to students’ comments, even if you don’t have anything elaborate to contribute on that point. A simple “interesting idea,” “good example,” “I agree,” or similar message can provide the online equivalent of eye contact and a nod of the head: it lets the communicator know that someone is paying attention. Often, this is also a good time to refocus the discussion by posing a new question that stems from the current conversations. Be aware of time. Students don’t tend to check the discussion board as frequently as instructors do, so part of your role is to make sure the discussion lulls don’t last too long. If you keep the discussion alive and stimulating, your students will have an incentive to check more frequently. At a minimum, you should be reading and contributing to the discussion in your workshop at least every other day, more often if possible especially if you have an active group.
Keep the majority of communication in the public forum, even if you find that some participants prefer to share their thoughts with you via email. Do not dilute the discussions on the discussion board with too much private one-on-one communication. Keep the discussions on track; rein in long digressions; push people forward on the topic. If comments drift off¬topic, be creative. Use subtle or humorous messages, or perhaps a humorous graphic or photo, to redirect discussion. Send personal emails if necessary.