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#20 - Hold a text-based online discussion

  1. Students need time to think and compose a response to challenging questions and topics.
  2. This can be difficult for students who lack confidence, whereas a minority of confident students can dominate conversations, thus causing polarisation in the class.
  3. Students need to be able to explore topics more fluidly, allowing conversations to emerge, text-based online discussions are ideal for this.
  4. This is also useful if internet connections are too unreliable for video conferencing.
Solution overview

Text chat is widely used in entertainment, but can be challenging in teaching, as it tends to reduce all participants (including the teacher) to the same level - we lose the impacts of physical identity and position in the room. To make this work well, you should provide all participants with a set of protocols that establish patterns that are right for the way in which you want to work. The teacher (or e-moderator) should act to structure the discussion, so as to ensure equal participation and that progress is made in the right direction. Break large groups into separate rooms, and use moderators in each room (can be a student) to manage and report back to the whole class. Rooms could be assigned by you, or you could create separate rooms for different topics, and allow the students to move between them as they need.

Process
  1. Create a Microsoft Teams space and add your students to it. See the links in the Tools list below for more information on Teams, including the information on choosing Teams space types.
  2. Provide the students with information about how to access Teams, and a link to the Team (you can generate a link by right clicking on the team in Teams). Provide them with advice and rules on how you want them to work in the Teams space.
  3. Set up separate channels (like virtual rooms) for each sub group you want to use, and if necessary assign a coordinator (in Teams you can give "owner" permissions to an individual). When creating channels, make sure you tick the necessary option for showing the new channel to all members. You can also make a channel private, so that only specified people can access it.
  4. Add a prompting message to each channel, mentioning the students you want to respond to it. If you include @channelname (with the actual name of your channel), the students will immediately receive a pop-up notification about the new message. We also recommend that you give new channel messages a title. The flow of new messages can be quite fast. If people give each new message a good, clear, distinct title, it makes it easier for others to follow the conversation. To do this, when writing a new message, click on the “A with a paintbrush” button just above the text entry box.

    Add title to channel message