The following is an excerpt from Online Course Creation Made Easy: 25 Activities to Engage Your Online Learners. You can download the ebook for free.
Learning Activity 7: Discussion Board: Introductions
Why: Build community, interact
What: One of the drawbacks of an online course is that students often feel a sense of isolation. An active discussion board can reduce that sense of isolation and if used effectively, increase a sense of belonging to a community. Introductions are one discussion board activity designed to build your community from the beginning.
How: Student and instructor introductions are a must for building an online community. Introductions can serve many purposes. They can increase student/teacher presence in a course. (Presence is the feeling that the person is actually there). They can help students find resources in each other. And they can help build connections.
What you ask for in an introduction can help students connect and help you focus the course. You can ask students what they hope to get out of the course and what their goals are. You can ask what their level of expertise or knowledge is on a subject. You can even ask silly random questions to help connect people on a more personal level, like ‘What were you like in middle school?’.
When: This activity works well in a paced course where students will be spending time together working through the material. It gives them a chance to see that others may be on their same level of knowledge. It may show them who is more experienced and may be able to help them understand something
Modify: In a self-paced, course, it’s a little harder to use an in-course discussion board because very few students are in the same place at the same time. You can leave the discussion board open and rolling so that current students can learn from past student posts, decreasing the sense of isolation. Another tactic to help a self-paced course is to use an outside group, like a Facebook group. Previous students often remain in the group and offer support to current students.
AL: Equal partners in learning, learn best in informal situations *Adult learning principles
SL: Interaction, sense of community, teamwork *Science of learning