Cooperation, discussion and sharing - Fleksibel utdanning Norge

The experience and skills that students bring to the classroom are a good resource for further learning. Good activities can therefore include initiating new topics by activating and highlighting the students’ existing knowledge and experience. Similarly, it may be a good idea to end learning sessions by summarising learning and reflecting on how it can be incorporated into the students’ own practice.

There are a number of digital tools that are suitable for cooperation, discussion and sharing. These are good asynchronous activities that maintain the motivation to learn, for example between sessions and when it suits the student’s schedule. Most learning platforms include discussion tools, but digital whiteboards such as Miro, Padlet or Samtavla can also be used, where students can write together in a channel that is user-friendly and easy to structure.

Group work

Working in groups can be a good way to utilise the students’ experiences, share theory, solve cases, do role play and let them share and develop new knowledge together. Group work can range from short discussion-based sessions to complex and lengthy project assignments.

Advice and tips for structuring group processes:

  • Think about how students should be grouped together depending on the subject’s distinctive nature, geography and, if necessary, work affiliation.
  • Include several small group assignments and then, if relevant, build up progression from simple to more complex issues.
  • For simple and short group tasks, where the groups do not have plenty of time to establish an internal structure, it may be a good idea to designate someone with main responsibility in each group.
  • In asynchronous courses in particular, students often need help to get started on group work, and it may be a good idea for the tutor to set up the groups.
  • Give the groups a template group agreement so that they have a basis for discussing and agreeing on their expectations of each other. The more formal the assignment, the more important a group agreement is.

Essentially, it is the students’ skills in using digital tools and their degree of autonomy that determine how successful asynchronous, or partly asynchronous, cooperation works. Most often, an online or in-person start-up meeting will be desirable in order to lay a good foundation for the group work, but the majority of the academic tasks can be done asynchronously. Shared documents that enable collaborative writing and commenting, online mind maps, wikis and shared cloud-stored folders are easily accessible tools that facilitate asynchronous cooperation. In multi-stage collaborative assignments, a deadline should be set for each stage. The longer the time spent on each stage, the more flexibility for each individual, but this must be balanced against the need for a certain pace in order to maintain momentum.

Discussion forum   

Some types of discussions are intended to enable students to contribute at the same level. One example could be brainstorming on a digital whiteboard that can be used to spark ideas and share knowledge, and to map the group’s knowledge level before a new topic or the start of a project. In a written, asynchronous discussion, participants have more time to word their own contributions and interpret those made by others. A widely used form is posts with comments: An author writes a post, and the others comment on the post. For example, this can be used in peer reviews and in group work with an internal division of tasks, where the student’s post is the main product and the comments made by others help improve the product. This is also used in connection with reflection assignments. In a learning support forum, students can ask questions and get answers from both the tutor and other students. These forums can be subject-specific or remain open for several courses in the programme.

Advice and tips for asynchronous discussions in digital learning arenas:

  • Taking part in discussions and cooperation may be voluntary or compulsory. Make the students aware of what is expected of them as early as possible, preferably already in the course description if participation in written discussion is to form part of the assessment basis.
  • The use of discussions is closely linked to the rest of the course structure. A discussion should be specifically created for its purpose and adapted to the expected number of users. For example, it may be appropriate to conduct discussions in groups if there are many participants. It can be difficult to think of new input when many people have already contributed.
  • A discussion may have a moderator who summarises along the way and ensures progress in the discussion. This could be the tutor, but the role of moderator can also be assigned to the students in turn. Clear descriptions of tasks will make them feel confident.
  • If the course has a flexible start-up or progress, it takes extra effort to keep the discussion going. The tutor can assume a clearer role as facilitator and moderator. Bringing participants from different disciplines together in the same forum to discuss common topics and issues can also stimulate the discussion.
  • Posts in a forum where students can ask questions when they are stuck should be answered quickly. Good questions and answers can be reused and then become a learning resource.
  • In completely asynchronous online programmes and courses with free progression and start-up, it will be very difficult to achieve good group processes. To encourage knowledge and experience sharing, simple written communication (such as a discussion thread or chat) may be assigned to each module or element in the module. Students are encouraged to leave their own reflections and can read those left by others.

Ai and language models in teaching

Many people are concerned with how artificial intelligence will affect teaching and assessment, and argue that teaching must facilitate sensible use of these technologies. Since development in this area is so rapid.

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