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Effective facilitation of virtual dialogues: tested strategies and practical guidelines

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1 Author(s)
Yoder, M.B. ; Lesley Univ., Cambridge, MA, USA

Online discussions can enhance Internet-based as well as traditional format classes. Course topics can be expanded and explored and students can express their opinions and debate controversial issues. When online discussions are not skillfully facilitated, however, they can become confusing and chaotic, with some people dominating the interactions and others hesitant to participate. In traditional classrooms, efforts are made to encourage a distribution of participation, to acknowledge contributions without being judgmental, and to avoid people interrupting other people. This can be done by calling on students with raised hands and encouraging non-contributors to participate. In online discussions contributions are made asynchronously so taking turns is built into the system. Skillful facilitation can increase participation, focus the dialogue if it has drifted from the topic, and promote and support thoughtful, meaningful responses. Writing effective group and individual interventions can be the key to successful facilitation. If you are faced with the challenge of facilitating online interactions and fostering online collaboration, there are tested strategies that can be learned, then modified for individual use. The following observations and suggestions are the result of five years of teaching in and observing an Internet-based, online Master's degree program. Classes averaged 15 students each and more than 2,000 students were observed. Student course evaluations and unsolicited comments reinforced the findings of online instructors.

Published in:

Computers in Education, 2002. Proceedings. International Conference on

Date of Conference:

3-6 Dec. 2002