17 paper

Teaching with technology: Using online chat to promote effective in-class discussions

Leanne Cameron
Australian Centre for Educational Studies
Macquarie University

Much has been written about the role discussions can play in creating an effective learning environment. However, the difficulties in conducting an in-class discussion in which all students have the opportunity to take part in a meaningful way are well recognised. It may be difficult for a student to feel his/her contribution is integral to the discussion if they are one of 20; shy students are rarely heard from, and controversial content may not attract adequate student contributions. Is it possible for the tutor moderating the discussion to determine those students who are finding the concepts under discussion difficult to understand? Does the opinion of the tutor influence the nature of students’ responses? In-class discussions have been used in tutorials in School of Education courses at Macquarie University to study the set course readings but the course tutors were not convinced of their effectiveness. As firm believers in the value of discussion, the tutors had to find another way to enable everyone to have a voice. This paper reports on the in-class online chat assessment task currently being offered. These discussions successfully encouraged all students to become involved and the students’ understanding and engagement with course material improved dramatically.

Keywords: computer-mediated communication, learning communities, collaborative learning, teaching and learning strategies, technologies for marginalised and disadvantage