Facilitating large diverse groups
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Crowd Bonding (v2)

 

Manipulate discussion forum threads to encourage desired group formations.

Name: Crowd Bonding

Forming discussion groups to facilitate interaction for learning

Problem

Working together is a fundamental part of learning but catalysing the formation of groups from a diverse participant cohort is not easy when collaboration and co-creation of learning is desired, as well promoting interaction to serve a supportive social function. 

Context

These are interatactions taking place in Moodle and Coursera style platforms, with only limited forum management tools but with the facility available to faciliatators and moderators to create threads in the forums or creat sub-forums.  Discussion forums are unwieldy, many find it difficult to identify others with whom to share meaningfully.

** In some cases participants may even feel intimidated by the posts if they find that there is a huge gulf between their knowledge and other participants who are taking the course.

Solution

1. Determine natural or desireable groupings which might be sought for this learning topic.

For example, if the topic is about computer programming perhaps grouping learners based on their opereating system will be more useful because they are likely to have similar problems in installing software and running it.

2. Can be done by observing the nature of posts and posts seeking interaction in the opening days.

3.  Form forum threads or sub-forums which are accessible to everyone on the fornt page of the forum.

4.  Those threads should be inofrmatively titled according to the groups defined.

5.  Allow the learners to form additional threads as needed.

6.  Review for further weeks and phases of MOOC/ODL.

7.  This will prevent students being isolated in dying threads as other learners dropout. Students have access to other discussions and can link discussions from multiple groups depending on similar themes

Examples

After a chaotic first week on h817open - Openness to Education, learner requests led to the forming of threads titled according to the area of interest accoring to their working context.  IN addition spontaneous forums formed based on other ciriteria, so that sub-groups could form and learners find othes of similar interest.  Discussion across groups to share ideas still occurred.

In a FutureLearn MOOC introducing Programming to beginners we saw that there were lot of posts that were operating system specific. Since all these posts were posted in FutureLearn forums which at the time did not have specific threading mechanism when the number of posts were large participnats had to read lot of unrelated posts to find information relevant to them. Had there been separate discussion areas for different operating systems, it would have been more meaningful for people posting on each thread discussion. It would have made it easier for participants to find answers to their quesstions. Also participants will be able to answer others questions more easily because the posts will be more 'visible' to a group of people who use the same operating system, experiencing same difficulties encouraging more meaningful interaction.

In the Coursera ICT in Primary Education MOOC, participants were invited to submit posts of examples to separate discussion threads focusing identified learning types (eg. discussion, collaboration, production). This helped to refine the task so that the discussion was focused around a specific issue. This proved to be a successful strategy.

**In Begin Programming build your first mobile game FutureLearn MOOC the second run had about 38k participants registering. In this run some of the participants who joined the course were professional programmers with lot of experience. After obtaining the game framework provided in the course they were able to customise the game to very high standards. The course encourages sharing of code and once these code were shared other participants that is beginners for whom the course was intended felt intimidated. They complained that the experienced programmers 'hijacked' the course. Had we introduced two threads of discussions one for experienced programmers and another for beginners this could have been avoided. In the third run of the course we have introduced an additional discussion space 'Experts' corner' hoping to eliminate this problem reoccuring.

Data and References

 

Author(s): Yishay Mor, Steven Warburton
Published at: 05 Feb 2015 14:29 GMT
Original link (login required): https://ilde.upf.edu/moocs/pg/lds/view/2115/