November/December 2002 - Asynchronous
Importance, Design, Facilitation,
Smith of Lewis and Clark College
Communication, Facilitation, Online Education, Evaluation, Assessment,
Discussion Forum, Design
Asynchronous – occurring at different times
Discussion – an exchange of ideas, facts, and opinions
Should you use asynchronous discussions in your course? What will they accomplish?
How can they be effective? The answer to these questions is important for
every online facilitator to investigate. Although you may believe online teaching
and learning is in its infancy, there is enough research reported in the literature
to establish asynchronous discussions as one of the most significant factors
in effective online courses. Discussions (often labeled participation in traditional
classes) can, and probably should be, used in most online classes. The big
difference between discussions in a traditional class and an online class
is when they take place. In a face to face (F2F) class, discussions are synchronous
(all participating within the same time frame). Joan says, "This is what
I think...." then John replies, "I agree with your first two points
but disagree with your third". Online, discussions are asynchronous (taking
place at different times). Joan posts a message and at a later time, John
replies to her message. These discussions take place in forums the instructor
creates, making assignments in regards to what should be discussed. The instructor
monitors the discussions and can reply when necessary.
These discussions often become the “heart” of online courses.
The discussion forums for many online courses often become the virtual classroom.
Their very nature allows for reflection and critical thinking, resulting in
more involvement, by more students, than the typical face to face (F2F) classroom
discussion. In fact, those introverted students (as defined in personality
styles), who rarely “speak up” in a F2F class, often lead exciting
and thought provoking discussions online.
- Why Use Discussions
- Approaches to Discussion Questions
- Characteristics of Effective Discussions
- Useful Forums
- Facilitating Discussions
- Keeping Your Balance