Weekly Writing 9 – Lori Sowa
While posting online may cause some apprehension and uneasiness, at least initially, there are numerous benefits to this practice. The potential for an increase in the quality of student work is well documented, and something I’ve experienced first hand as both a student and an instructor. However, this first-hand experience comes at the undergraduate and graduate level. As with many aspects of online learning – I wonder about the implications for elementary, middle and high school students, where social pressures are more intense.
Browsing through articles and literature on this subject, I came across the somewhat unfortunate term “pedagogical lurking”. Dennen (2008) describes lurking as non-posting discussion behavior, basically reading posts in an online discussion forum related to a course without commenting. She argues that students may do this with positive intent, similar to listening in a face-to-face course. And her study, although limited and based upon self-reporting by students, correlated frequent non-posting behavior with a perception that the discussion board was worthwhile. This poses an interesting challenge for assessment. We can easily assess actual postings, but perhaps that doesn’t provide a full picture of the ways in which students use the discussion boards to meet their pedagogical needs. I find myself reading more posts than I actually respond to, and certainly find benefit in doing so. I’ve watched many of the video links provided in weekly writings, and have passed them on to colleagues and used them in classes. But then, is there a detriment in not responding – to the author or the class as a whole?
The most important negative aspect of student posting online, perhaps related to the desire by students for privacy of their work, is concern about intellectual property. Putting your work out there for all to see also makes it more readily available for others to use in an unethical way. Safeguards, such as providing a closed forum for discussion boards, can help limit access to material to course participants. But the actual threat this poses is likely small. Some students will be more sensitive to this issue than others, and instructors will need to be ready to defend their course requirements while taking into account the concerns of their students.
One logistical aspect of posting online is archiving and saving your own work. While I maintain notebooks from many of the courses I’ve taken in the past, I have not continued this practice with the online courses I’ve taken. For this course in particular – will we continue to have access to course website after the course is over? While I keep electronic files of the writing that I do, it’s just not the same as having a compilation of all of the information in one binder. I may have to gather up the various articles that I’ve printed for this course (as much as I’d prefer to save the paper and read the articles online, I still prefer print for comprehension) and start the archival process. However, the lack of paper-based materials for archiving is likely considered a benefit by many.
The benefits of posting online outweigh the negative aspects which can, in most cases, be easily managed. Requiring students to post their work online using various tools and in innovative ways can be a forum to teach 21st century skills. In addition to posting to a discussion board, students can organize and present material by creating a website, a Prezi presentation, a Thinglink, or any of the myriad of modern options available. This does not mean, however, that every assignment in an online or blended course should automatically be required to be posted online. There may still be a place for private submissions. As always, the method of presentation of an assignment should be linked to the learning objective and desired assessment.
Dennen, V. P. (2008). Pedagogical lurking: Student engagement in non-posting discussion behavior. Computers In Human Behavior, 24(4), 1624-1633.