Part 11 – Spring 2020 Labs

213 Effective Online Discussions – 02.06.2020

On February 6, 2020, participants in the Active Teaching Lab addressed the challenges faced with online discussions even though they are structured environments for students to reflect on course materials, exchange ideas with peers, and propose their own perspectives. But they often fall flat — why? Below are some of the questions and potential solutions proposed during the Lab.


  • Challenge: Lack of visual connections, body language, and gestures inherent in organic face-to-face conversation
    • Possible solution: encourage students to post video messages, allow “liking,” (only for those grading or for everyone)
      Case (2012) studies the potential for audio posting parallel to text posts with inconclusive results, even though “posts were shorter in the written condition, they contained higher levels of content quality […] Spoken comments also contained more social content…that were less common in the written posts.”
  • Challenge: Inability for self correction causes students to self-censor
  • Challenge: Ease of identifying or following a discussion matching students’ interests

To learn more and discover new resources, visit the session’s activity sheet.



The Active Teaching Lab is a Faculty Engagement program with sessions held on Thursdays from 1:00-2:00pm and Fridays from 8:30-9:45am in the Middleton Building (1305 Linden Dr.), room 120. Check out upcoming Labs or read the recaps from past Labs. We build interdisciplinary conversations that are more emergent than a presenter and more dynamic than a panel — a conversation with colleagues sharing challenges, solutions, and experiments on topics selected by a variety of stakeholders.

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Active Teaching Lab eJournal Copyright © 2016 by DoIT Academic Technology and the UW-Madison Teaching Academy; Jennifer Hornbaker; John Martin; Julie Johnson; Karin Spader; Margaret Merrill; Margaret Murphy; and Jeffrey Thomas. All Rights Reserved.

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