Death by Discourse: Avenging Online Discussions

Concurrent Session 7
Streamed Session

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Brief Abstract

Who killed online discussion? Why did they do it? How can we avenge its untimely demise and resurrect scholarly discourse? Let’s combine our collective smarts to solve crimes around boring prompts, forced responses, and more. Using detective work and design thinking, we will bring online discussions back to life!

Sponsored By


A Colorado native and graduate of both CU-Boulder and CU-Denver, Lainie is a great believer in the benefits of combining mountain air with an excellent education. She holds a Master's degree in Information and Learning Technologies, as well as a Bachelor's degree in Anthropology. She works to foster an environment of curiosity and exploration, which lends itself well to the growing landscape of digital education. Her strengths include a flexible communication style, an energetic approach to problem-solving, and a strong belief in cooperative experiences.
Lynee is a senior instructional designer at CU Denver who focuses on online program design and faculty development. She has a background in academic libraries and is keen on researching and discussing the in and outs of the online learning experience. Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, she is happy to be in Colorado with her husband and daughter. She has an undergraduate degree in art history and graduate degrees in library science and instructional technologies.

Extended Abstract

Learning Outcomes: 
  1. Examine self-imposed and institutional discussion design barriers.
  2. Evaluate existing discussion designs and prompts.

Discussion has long been a tenet of social constructivist-based pedagogy. Students come to the classroom with their own perspectives and experiences that influence how they as individuals engage with course content, build new knowledge, and reach learning outcomes. Interaction between students allows them to voice their constructed understandings, hear others’ perspectives, and refine their own constructed understanding as a part of social interplay. The instructor moderates and directs discussion to lend their expertise in content, provides a guiding voice to keep discussions productive, as well as offer their own insights and understanding.

In online classroom settings, transactional distance, multi/asynchronous communications, and other changes to the discussion space tend to push discussions away from the rich social interaction that challenges and grows individual thinking through interaction. However, this is something that can be mitigated through thoughtful design.

We have developed a framework grounded in research and experience surrounding online discussions and design principles to help instructors, teaching assistants, instructional designers, and other interested parties design better online discussions. 

This workshop will take participants through the process of evaluating and redesigning a discussion as befits a workshop on discussion: with small groups to talk through various perspectives, voice their own experiences and understandings, and work through potential solutions. Small group discoveries will be shared back to the larger group for additional discussion and notes.

Attendees will return to their home institutions with individual strategies for designing and launching more engaging online discussions, as well as be equipped with the materials to run their own versions of this workshop. Participants will also be ready to design new online discussions, evaluate and redesign existing online discussions, and advocate at a department level for more meaningful online discourse.

  • Opening Dialogue/Setup
    • Welcome and introduction
    • Values Reflection (individual activity)
    • Overview of small group activity
  • Small Group Work Time 
    • Discussion scenarios are handed out and groups of 3-5 people work through details that might be negatively impacting the outcomes experienced by the instructor and students.
    • Workshop facilitators will be on hand to assist with questions and help prompt discussion in struggling groups.
  • Report Out 
    • Groups share their observations about the scenarios.
  • ToolKit and Q&A 
    • Presenters introduce the audience to tools that will help them reflect and refine online discussion assignments.
    • References
    • Adjacent Technologies
    • OER bit: Slide Deck, Materials
    • Q&A

We need access to a projector with HDMI connectivity in a room with wifi in order to support the sharing of toolkit items and URLs for additional access to the toolkit contents. We have a small slide deck to help with workshop structure (5-7 slides). We can supply all additional attendee workshop materials, including handouts and writing instruments. Workshop materials will be available for future access and use via Google Drive.