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Blackboard's discussion board, like other online Internet forums or message boards, is a tool that allows students to participate in an asynchronous or not live discussion on a variety of topics usually chosen by the instructor. What normally happens is the instructor initiates the conversation, students then chime in, and the instructor jumps in from time to time to offer feedback and to guide the conversation. Before we start, let me give you some best practices that you may want to keep in mind.
First, do not assume that your students know how to participate in a scholarly online discussion. You are going to need to show your students the mechanics of how to use Blackboard, but you are also going to have to show the students how to participate in a scholarly conversation. Your students have experience posting things to Facebook, but this isn't Facebook. They need to be more reflective in what they post. In fact, you need to set your expectations at the beginning of the term and let the students know how many posts per week you are going to expect from them and what you consider to be a substantive post.
In other words, you need to let your students know that "I agree" or "me too" is not acceptable and that other rules of Internet netiquette are going to apply here. For example, you don't want to do LOL or ROFL or any of those other abbreviations. You want to actually follow real scholarly writing examples in this case. Finally, in the beginning of the term, you are going to need to model the behavior. What that means is, as you go into the discussion board, you are going to show your students through your example what reflective writing actually looks like.
So let's get back to Blackboard. How do you access Blackboard's discussion board? Well, there are multiple ways to do it. Let me get into our Educational Technology course and I am going to scroll down here. One way to do it is there maybe a link on your course menu to Discussions. That's there by default. If you don't see a link to Discussions on your course menu, you can add one by hand just by clicking on the plus sign on the top of the course menu adding a tool link and then linking to Discussion Board tool. Let me also scroll down and notice that students can click on Tools and then scroll down and click on Discussion Board.
They can access the discussion board that way as well, and as an instructor under Course Management in Course Tools you have a link to the Discussion Board. There is one thing different about this link than the other two. If a student clicks on Discussion Board, they're taken into the class discussion board. So I clicked on Discussion here as well. It takes me to the same place. As an instructor, down here in Course Management under Course Tools, if I click on Discussion Board, it's not going to take me to that page yet.
It's actually going to give me an option and say, okay, which discussion board do I want to click on? I have my class discussion board, but as I create groups, groups could have discussion boards. As the instructor, I need to be able to get into those as well. So you are going to see a list of all the discussion boards going on in your class. Not only your class discussion board, but your group discussion boards as well. In this case, let's get into the class discussion board and you are going to notice it's pretty much the same. So what we're going to do right now is we're going to set up a discussion board and it turns out that creating a discussion board or creating a conversation is actually a two-step process.
Step number one is we need to create a forum or a room in which the conversation is going to take place, and step number two is then to create a thread or conversation on a particular topic. So what we're going to do is we're going to create a forum and my recommendation is you should create at least two forums in your class. You're going to create a scholarly forum and a non-scholarly forum, sort of one forum that counts and one for the students to be able to post other things.
By giving the students a parking lot in which they can add non-scholarly, non-class related information, you actually make sure that you have a place for students to express that information that doesn't pollute your scholarly conversation. So I am going to create a forum here. It's going to ask me for a name. I can type in a description. If you have access to the exercise files, on the desktop I've got a text file that I created called discussion.txt.
In this case, I am just going to cut and paste. You can type whatever you want here. In this case, I just made it earlier, because I'm such a terrible typist. So we've got the weekly class discussions, and I am going to give the information to the students. Now it says that this is actually a description, but realistically I treat this as the instructions. I am going to tell the students that whatever they post in here, that counts. You're actually going to get a grade for this, and you need to submit two substantive posts each week, one in response to a question that I post and one in response to something that a fellow student has posted.
So even though it says Description, put your instructions here. I am going to scroll down. Forum Availability is, will students ever be able to participate in this forum? Yes. I can turn on Date and Time Restrictions if I wanted to. Now, let's go through the settings for this particular place where students are going to be able to communicate. Do I want my students to be able to post things anonymously? Well, no, because I'm going to be creating this, and do I want the students to be able to delete their own posts? A student could post something and then come back and say, "Gosh, I want to take that back," and I can say Yes.
If I do, I have two options. I can have them delete their own posts, anything they make, or only posts that somebody hasn't replied to yet. In this case, I am going to kind of say no, I want this to stay up and running all the time. Do I want my students to be able to edit their posts after they make it? No. Again, once you turn it in, I want you to stand behind what you're saying. Post Tagging is just a way of saying do you want you and your students to be able to sort of put a "personal" flag on any post and say ooh, I want to come back and read that later.
That's what Post Tagging is. So I will turn that on. Do I want the users who read a post in a discussion board to be able to click on a button that says Quote and pull a quote out of the original post and include it in theirs, sort of a reply? Yeah, I actually like that approach. So I will say yes. Do I want users to be able to attach files? This actually is a neat idea. Earlier versions of Blackboard had something called a Digital Dropbox. The Digital Dropbox allowed students to drop files into a particular area.
If you allow file attachments, you can actually use your discussion board as a replacement for the Digital Dropbox. The students could go into the discussion board and just attach files. Now the issue with this is any student can see any file that's been submitted to the discussion board. It doesn't go just to you. it goes to everyone in the course. So Allow File Attachments is a way for students to attach files, but it's files that will be viewable by everybody. And do I want members, in this case students, to be able to create a new thread? Remember, a forum is the room in which the conversation takes place.
A thread is that topic that starts that particular conversation. It's up to you. Many instructors basically will initiate threads themselves. Students can then reply. Others will allow the students to create their own threads. Remember that if you uncheck this, nothing can happen in your discussion board until you go in and initiate the conversation. If I check this, the students can go in and start the conversation right now.
Subscription is a feature that allows students to receive an email message whenever something new has happened in a particular room or a forum. You can also do this as well. So you can actually allow people to subscribe to the room itself, the forum, or to individual conversations that are going on here. Then what is going to show up in the email message whenever there's a change? You can have a link to the post or you can actually have Blackboard email you the discussion board post and you can have it show up in your email inbox.
Remember, make sure your email address is correct. Completely up to you. I usually say no, but it's up to you on whether or not you want to allow this. Next thing is, do you want to allow members to rate posts? This will actually put a series of stars in each post and the students can then grade it from one to five stars and we have a movie that shows you more about that. So I am going to turn it on. Force Moderation means that whenever a student posts something, before it shows up on the discussion board it comes to an inbox only visible to you or somebody that you choose and then that person chooses to either accept or reject that post.
If you're concerned about your student posting inappropriate materials, you might want to turn on Force Moderation. We'll talk about that in an upcoming movie. Last thing is you have the option here of grading the forum or grading the threads. In other words, you can actually assign grades for students' participation within a room or within a particular conversation. Two things to keep in mind. Grading Forum when you do this will automatically create a score column in the Grade Center.
If you've gone into your Grade Center and changed your Total column or your Weighted Total column, you need to go back to the Total column or Weighted Total column and then make sure that this new column is counted. Grade Threads sounds like a great idea, but it's going to create a new Grade Center score column for each and every thread in your Discussion Board and this could be really, really big. It could adversely impact your Grade Center, because say that you have two conversations a week over an 18 week course. By clicking on Grade Threads, you've just added 36 columns to your Grade Center.
My recommendation is grade the discussion forum. In this case, I am going to give it 100 points. Remember, make sure that if you've gone and edited your Grade Center to have a Total and Weighted Total column that is anything other than the standard set, you want to go back and add this to those columns as well. I am going to click on Submit and I have now created the forum. Let me do one more. I'll do this really quickly. I want to create the parking lot that I was talking about. The parking lot is just a free-for- all where students can post on anything.
However, you do want to have rules for your parking lot. So in this case I'm going to go here and the rules are post non-class related questions or comments. It's optional. It does not count to your final participation grade. That said, I expect you to be professional in comment and to nurture an environment of mutual tolerance and respect. Am I going to make it available? Yes. Am I going to allow anonymous posts? No. Do I want to let people delete their posts? No. I might want to allow somebody to do the editing.
I am going to allow reply with quotes. I won't allow file attachments. In this case, I do want people to create their own threads and that is all I am going to do to create that. So I've now created two discussion board forums. One last thing I need to do now that I've created the forums, this one, the students can start their own conversation. This one, students can start their own conversation. My recommendation is since I want to model the behavior, I'm now going to create a thread. So I've accessed this forum, this room, and now I am going to start the first conversation.
And you are going to notice that this box looks an awful lot like what we've seen before. I am going to cut and paste the prompt. I can, if I want to, attach a file here. In this case, I am just starting the conversation. Pretty simple settings here, Subject and a Message, click on Submit, and I've now created the conversation. So in my discussion board I now have in my room two forums, a Weekly Class Discussion, I've got a Parking Lot.
I can actually see that there's now one post. In our next movie we're going to talk about how to manage Blackboard discussions.
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