I’m not sure why, but lately I’ve been seeing a lot of discussion board assignments that aren’t really discussions. They’re galleries. People do an individual assignment, then they post their work to the discussion board to get peer feedback. It’s not that peer feedback is a bad thing, but really, are you actually having a conversation that way? Probably not. It’s more like if everyone in a physical classroom hung their work on the walls and we all walked around to look at what people did. It’s a gallery or bulletin board, not a conversation.
Like a lot of online schools, we rely on asynchronous threaded discussion forums for many of our activities. I think those forums can actually provide some very valuable learning experiences. They can be a way for people to learn from each other and see different perspectives. Discussions can help build a sense of community.
I really dislike discussion boards where basically everyone is going to post the same thing. “Post your definition of organizational culture to the discussion board.” Boring. Seriously, it’s bad enough to make the instructor read 30 marginally different versions of the same thing; why make a whole class suffer? I want discussion board questions to at least provide a way for people to express a personal perspective or draw on their own experience. Ideally, I prefer discussion board questions where people are really discussing and probably disagreeing with one another. A question that’s messy and doesn’t have a single right answer makes for a much more interesting and thought-provoking discussion.
I just don’t feel like galleries are a very effective use of the discussion board. Wikis seem like a better technology for that; everyone can easily post their work, and comments can be added on the discussion page. The comments or peer feedback are less the focus than the original project, and I think that’s OK. A wiki means you can take the feedback and revise your work, and it’s easy to track the changes. Many of our individual projects are lesson plans, so by creating a wiki we also create a collection of lesson plans can continue to access after the course is finished.
We’re trying out using a wiki this way in a course that just started this week, so I should have some information in a few months about how it goes. I’m curious what other people do for their online courses though. Do you use peer feedback? If so, how do you have students share the information and feedback?