Open-ended Discussion Boards to enable student-led discovery/content

For my course I will have 2 open-ended discussion boards that students can post new information that they have come across from other sources outside the class.  This will allow students to contribute to the direction of the course discsussion while earning optional extra credit points toward their grade in the process.  The first of these will be to post relevant news articles on climate change.  The second will be to post relevant blogs, youtube videos, or websites that question whether:

  • the climate is warming,
  • humans are responsible,
  • warming will have an impact, or
  • it is feasible to try to make a change.

Below is the post for the News discussion Board.  I would love it if folks have suggestions or thoughts on how to improve upon it.  Thanks in advance!  Jillian

Example Discussion Board Post:

WOW – Global Climate Change is all over the News!  And just in time while you are taking this course on Introduction to Climate Change.  To help keep everyone abreast of all that is happening, post Global Climate Change News articles or links of interest on this new Discussion Board.

Maximum extra credit on this Discussion Board will be 40 points.
All points will be added after the Discussion Board closes at the end of week 9.
5 points: Posted a link to an article, blog, seminar, etc. together with an overview of the content and a statement describing what aspect of this course’ lectures/labs/reading it addresses. (Also post each to Turnitin!)
1 point (maximum of 5 of these types of posts):
Conversational post
                e.g.: “OMG, XXX is so amazing! (must be specific to the post!).
                           Then state what further information would you want to know?
                           Thanks for posting!
3 points (maximum 3 of these types of posts):
Short but thoughtful response to someone else’s post (1 paragraph).
e.g.: I agree with you and also found the part where they said “xxx” super interesting.  Although I am not sure I agree with or understand the point where they said “xxx”.  Does anyone get this or have any insights on xxx???  It seemed related to xxx in this course….
5 points: Involved response to someone else’s post (2 or more paragraphs).
Should include additional links or references to course material and be posted to Turnitin!
10 points: Outstanding original post or response that nails the entire issue (3 or more paragraphs).  Must include at least three references using proper citation format as outlined in the Start Here module and be posted to Turnitin.
“Liking” is also possible – so go ahead and “like” posts that you find interesting!


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Online Course Design Pitfall #4: Expect your students to consume knowledge rather than create it.

I find this pitfall difficult to overcome, especially, when I think about how I should address areas, which have traditionally been taught with a face-to face lecture (e.g. anatomy, physics, etc..) in a small, but still large class. I struggle sometimes at the beginning of a class understanding/estimating  were student stand in regards to their knowledge. Doing case discussions helps me usually to better understand where the class stands and what key concepts they feel comfortable with or not; however, I have so far only done in in classes, which are about half the size from the new class . I checked out how people flip the classroom in medical education and came across the Khan university website. On the Kah website, I could find a lectures series about cervical radiography; however, that looked relative basic in regards to radiography. I had also been wondering if radiology is ready to flip the class room and came accross the artilce ”

“Practice Corner: Is Radiology Education Ready for a Flipped Classroom?

…mastery of medical knowledge is only one of the core competencies as defined by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). The other competencies are professionalism, patient care, practice-based learning and improvement, systems-based practice, and interpersonal skills and communication. These skills are not easily conveyed in a short video: They must be modeled. A radiology curriculum commons may act as a substitute for textbooks and live didactic lectures, but local radiology faculty will still be needed to reinforce medical knowledge and to help trainees develop the other professional competencies. After all, “professionalism is at the core of the art, as well as the science, of medicine” and “we learn the art from role models, from the people around us” (6).”

I am not sure, if students can easily provide knowledge do a degree needed in class and teach it; however, I agree that there is a lot of potential in students and I/we need to look for the best way tapping it. I envision that the class may have some of both elements, including short lecture series and lots of discussion sessions.


Author List


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Innovation in Online Team Projects

My goal, since this is a new course is to “author” not “re-author” my course materials to take full advantage of the benefits of both in-class and online delivery methods. The course; Introduction to Design Management is a 300 level, undergraduate course and is the first course students will take in the design management option. As a new course, students have no expectations of how the course was previously offered and this is both exciting and challenging, as I have no roadmap to use as a guide. I do know that I want the online content to push students to utilize online tools and practices in creative and collaborative ways. I chose pitfalls #1: Upload your course materials, then call it a day and #5: Ignore the ways students learn from each other to respond to.

I am particularly interested in exploring innovative ways the online portion of the course can push team projects in new directions. One idea that I am considering is to have groups create their own unique online presence, enabling the entire class to see how all teams in the class are organizing and managing a given project. In addition to their own group members, students can collaborate with teams outside of their group and share feedback and ideas. One of the great things that online courses provide is the opportunity to have more transparency throughout a project compared to a non-hybrid class, because the digital material is available all the time and the entire class can have access. In a typical non-hybrid course, students utilize class time for team meetings and presentations, but the students rarely see the daily or weekly progress and process of how other teams are working. Allowing teams to see one another’s process, progress and being allowed to contribute to other team’s process and progress may create a richer and more transparent experience for students. My hope is that innovative online team experiences will expand student’s collaborative toolkit, help them gain confidence in peer learning and discussion and aid students in letting go of “ownership” in collaborative work.

Team building and coaching flow chart on blackboard


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Avoiding the “Sage on the Stage”

How does your class add value to the wealth of free online content available to students?  I believe this is a central question to creating any successful class, but especially for hybrid courses when a large portion of content delivery is online.  There are three ways I will try to address this question with the environmental materials for H513.  First is determining the key content and learning objectives for what MPH students need to know to be successful public health practitioner. This is not an easy task given the breadth of the field and the rapid pace of change. Second is connecting existing and new resources to these learning objectives that promote problem-based learning through weekly case-studies, as well as other online activities that connect concepts to current environment health issues. Advise welcome here! Finally, I would like to integrate experiential learning components (e.g. where students would be given inexpensive air pollution monitors to capture/understand local pollution sources) but I am still unsure how to best fit this into a hybrid format.  Advise welcome!

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Avoiding Pitfall #5: Ignore the ways students learn from each other.

I think this is always a challenge when designing a blended course that has a substantial online portion.  In particular, my contents focus on how to code in statistical software R, and sometimes I find it difficult to promote student-student interactions.  It is also true that I tend to think back when I learned R–it was much of a struggle self-learning without any help or learning from others.

There are two ways that I would like to implement to avoid this pitfall of ignoring the ways students learn from each other.  First, I would like to have a very active discussion posts in Canvas, so that students can post any questions about coding or class contents in general.  I am hoping that others who know the “answer(s)” will provide their insight on these questions.  At the end, everyone speaks differently and codes differently. Therefore, it would be a good way to learn from others and see how others code.  Second, I want to emphasize learning within the student learning community that we have in
H513.  With these small groups of 4 or 5, I hope that students can learn from each other in a more intimate manner.  Reflecting back on the first time I taught H513, I am not sure if I emphasized this enough.  My goal for next fall would be to really emphasize this type of group learning.


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Avoid a common pitfall of hybrid course design: Insist on being the “sage on the stage”

The real pitfall of insisting on being the “sage on the stage” in a hybrid course is that the online portion of the course may become a “poor” replication of many excellent virtual learning sources that are readily available on the Web. As a result, the perceived value of the hybrid course could be surprisingly low from students’ standpoints. To avoid this pitfall, I started by asking myself a question: What is it that I can offer but that students cannot learn elsewhere? And what I’ve found so far is primarily about the connection between the knowledge taught in the textbook (primary course material) and what’s happening in the world.

Take the 2007-2009 global financial crisis as an example. There are abundant online videos and even storytelling movies (e.g., The Big Short (2015)) that educate the audience, in an entertaining way, about what has happened during the global financial crisis. The textbook authors’ approach, however, is to use an economic theory—asymmetric information—as a framework to offer a systematic explanation for the cause and consequence of the financial crisis. Obviously, the textbook’s approach is not entertaining at all and perhaps even boring to many students. To combat boredom and stimulate discussions among students, my hybrid course would focus on identifying the connection between the two types of educational sources (i.e., textbook vs. online videos or movies). For example, the hybrid course would focus on guiding students to see why the opening quote from Mark Twain in the movie The Big Short, a quote that the audience rarely pays much attention to, is essentially a paraphrase of a theory-based explanation of the financial crisis. I believe an establishment of such connection would open the door for students to draw more connections among ideas and even stimulate students’ critical thinking ability to evaluate policy implication that perhaps is the current heated debate in the social media. This is just an example that points to a direction to think about when developing a hybrid course.

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Expecting students to consume rather than create

Literature about adult learning clearly identifies interaction with the material as a key piece to learning. One challenge we face in the traditional veterinary curriculum is that students spend 30-35h a week in class or laboratories – leaving little to no time for active learning outside of the face-to-face sessions. I have started to integrate more and more “mini mental activities” into face-to-face learning, whereby students create a schematic, an explanation, or answer questions on their own followed by a brief discussion with their neighbor (our classrooms do not allow for “true” group work because of fixed seats). There is always such beautiful “noise” in the room when students discuss their output. And often students, as a pair, come up with more thoughtful and deeper questions.

Christiane Loehr

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Learning from our communities and each other in hybrid courses

So many of the common pitfalls are tied together. Understanding and fostering students learning from one another is a method of also avoiding the “sage on the stage” problem. I generally teach health systems classes. Each student comes to class with a set of experiences within healthcare, occasionally as working professionals but mostly as patients or caregivers of family members.

To support student to student interactions, I encourage students to share their experiences from the beginning of class by first sharing how much I have learned as a parent about the system and the challenges that we will be discussing in class. It is one thing to say that the health system is fragmented and that the fragmentation leads to poor communication among healthcare providers. It is quite another to discuss what it has meant for our family that information about medication allergies that our pediatric allergist had never made it back to our daughters pediatrician.  Our individual experiences give our valuable insights into the shortcomings and possibilities of out system.

Additionally, in our field it is important for each future public health professional to internalize that they will need to learn from the communities they will be working in. I believe one way to foster that is to make certain that students are learning from their peers and that we are continually learning from them as well.

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Don’t ignore the ways students learn from each other when going hybrid

Two adults shaking hands from separate computers

The face-to-face version of my course aims to allow students to learn from each other, rather than just from the instructor. This is accomplished by including in-class participation as ten percent of the final grade. Students are required to earn a minimum of 15 points over 16 class meetings, which excludes class meetings that exam days and during add-drop period. Students are able to earn a maximum of three points available per day. Specifically, student can earn a point for attending class, a point each class for asking a question related to the day’s topic, and a point for answering a question asked by the instructor each day. A student must earn 18 to 23 points to earn a 75%, 24 to 30 points for an 85%, 31 to 37 for a 95%, and 38 or more points for 100%.

The first day that a new topic is introduced is the lecture day while the second class meeting is an in-class activity day, during which students work in pairs or small groups to apply the learnings from the prior meeting’s lecture. However, the lecture day facilitates student-to-student learning by posing discussion questions after content presentation and Think-Pair-Share exercises in which students discuss their problem solutions in pairs or small groups before sharing with the class.

With designing the hybrid delivery of the course, the lectures that were previously delivered in class will now be delivered online in the form of brief videos. It would be easy to simply post the lecture videos and simply forget the student-to-student learning component that occurs during the in-class lectures. However, students can still learn from each other through posing the same questions that would have been asked in class on an online discussion board.

Because of the asynchronous nature of online discussions boards, deadlines for students to post their responses need be long enough to allow students flexibility to fit the assignment into their schedule, but not too long so that students lose momentum and fail to engage with their peers. Additional, a second deadline is necessary to ensure that students read the other students comments and reply. Students will be to be incentivized to participate online, as they are incentive to participate in class. The participation grade requirement will need to be divided between in-class and online participation. Further, criteria for earning online participation points needs developed to ensure students have clear guidance of how to earn their online participation grade.

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Enhancing student-to-student learning

Once I started looking for it, I began to experience the magic of students learning from other students in my in-person and online courses.  In our Integrated Approaches to Public Health course, we realized that we have a  unique opportunity since our class is likely the only time all of our MPH students will be in one class together.  We created Student Learning Groups and put students from the different public health disciplines together to work on a course project, which actually reflects what they are likely to encounter in their work settings.  We are continuing this in our hybrid version, as we are confident this both requires students to build team skills and provides initial connections for their professional networks.  I would like to extend this approach a bit by creating ad hoc small groups for discussions and assignments, so students get a chance to work with other individuals throughout the term.  I also plan to explore more online tools to help these groups with communication and organization (both within and outside of Canvas).  I will make sure to survey them at the end of the course to find out what tools they found most useful(!).

Student study group UBC Library

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