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Scaffolding interaction Narrative

Situation    The Coursera MOOC 'What Future for Education?' (University of London) was designed as a taster course for the Master of Arts(MA) in Education offered by UCL Institute of Education. One of the objectives was to create a similar learning experience to the MA which also involves online study.  The MA is designed to encourage online students to actively engage in meaningful dialogue with their peers and tutors – something challenging to achieve on a MOOC because of the cohort size. We were, therefore, concerned that the MOOC discussion boards could result in a list of comments without structure, and that constructive dialogue would not take place.

Task    We wanted a means to scaffold exchanges between MOOC participants that would result in genuine dialogue to produce the kind of reflective learning that the MOOC was designed to achieve. In particular we wanted to create a supportive environment where participants would develop each other’s learning in a constructive way.

Action    Each week we created a collaborative activity using Padlet as a “discussion starter”. Participants were asked to “Start the discussion” by posting an image on the Padlet to discuss in the forum in relation to the topic of the week, and respond to another participant’s discussion in a structured way. For example, in week 3, participants were invited to post an image, link or description on the Padlet of famously ‘good’ teachers from fiction (novels, TV, films), then to explain their choice in the forum. Participants were then asked to respond to two other posts by providing further arguments in support and then to develop the conversation by responding to prompts such as “What are the features of a "good teacher" or "good teaching"? Are some of these features universal, or are they context specific? Should teachers be paid according to their results?”

Result    The 'discussion starter' role of the Padlet worked very well and quickly became a popular feature of the MOOC. Originally the Padlet was free-form, so students could post anywhere. However, as the posts appeared, it became necessary to switch to a more formal, grid format in order to make it easier for people to see all the posts (i.e. so participants were not posting on top of others' posts). Not all the discussion followed the structured format - some participants launched their own reflection of the issues, but there was a great deal of supportive exchange between participants nevertheless.

Reflection    The Padlet wall became a rich learning resource in its own right that was constructed by participants, so even if students did not engage in the discussion at all, they would be immediately aware of the various ways the concepts could be applied to the world around them, and the different perspectives that could be supported. This created 'social presence' for students even if they did not actively engage in the discussion/co-construction.


Author(s): Paige Cuffe, Eileen Kennedy, Yishay Mor, tharindu, Steven Warburton
Published at: 10 Aug 2015 12:59 GMT
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