Discussion Hero: An Interactive Discussion Board that Encourages and Rewards Rich Dialogue

Concurrent Session 8

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

While online courses continue to proliferate, instructors struggle to get their students excited about participating in discussion boards. Discussion Hero is a gamified discussion board that turns discussions into debating boards. It encourages diverse points of view and respectful debate. It combines the traditional awarding of points with a progress meter that allows students to visually see how they are performing. This session will feature faculty and student perspectives on this new tool and what the future holds for its adoption in other courses.

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Presenters

Before moving to Chicago from a small town in Texas, Jacob worked as an Instructional Designer for almost eight years at a local community college. Prior to the journey that is online learning, Jacob was a Special Education Teacher for five years, teaching high-school students with learning disabilities in the subjects of Math and English. Jacob graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Radio-Television-Film from the University of Texas at Austin, and then went on to earn a Master’s degree in Computer Education and Cognitive Systems from the University of North Texas.
David Noffs has spent most of his life creating and working in unusual learning environments. From designing hi-tech mobile health education classrooms in rural and urban grade schools in Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, and the United States, to virtual classrooms beginning at Columbia College Chicago in 2005 and most recently in Northwestern University's School of Professional Studies. As an Instructional Technologist and Designer at the Center for Innovation and teaching Excellence at Columbia, he oversaw the development of online interactive tools for teaching in the arts, as well as virtual learning communities across the campus. He currently teaches both online and face to face courses in the Interactive Arts and Media department at Columbia and the Northwestern School of Professional Studies. Noffs' doctoral dissertation from National Louis entitled, "Resonating Frequencies of Virtual Learning Communities: An Ethnographic Case Study of Online Faculty Development at Columbia College Chicago” demonstrates his lifelong interest in the research and application of innovative pedagogies and technologies. Dr. Noffs is a frequent presenter at conferences on adult learning and online learning. He continues to research, explore, and apply emerging technologies in diverse learning environments.

Extended Abstract

While online courses continue to proliferate, instructors struggle to get their students excited about participating in discussion boards. As part of Northwestern University’s Educational Technology Teaching Fellows (ETTF) program in 2017, faculty member David Noffs and learning designer Jacob Michael Guerra-Martinez collaborated on a project to determine the effectiveness of gamifying specific elements of online courses. During the first phase of their research, they documented steps to develop a model for gamifying course elements. Phase two of their work, supported by Northwestern’s Digital Learning Fellowship Program, is the actual design and testing of a game element called Discussion Hero, an interactive discussion board. It was piloted in the Winter of 2018 in a graduate online course in the School of Professional Studies called Learning Environment Design. Discussion Hero is a gamified discussion board that turns discussions into debating boards. It encourages diverse points of view, questioning, challenging, and respectful debate. It combines the traditional awarding of points with a progress meter that allows students to visually see how they are performing on their discussion posts. This session will feature faculty and student perspectives on this new tool and what the future holds for its adoption in other courses.