Faculty: Best Practices for Seminars & Discussions

Several digital tools can help instructors reproduce an in-class discussion experience. Below are a few ideas to consider:

  • Pose the discussion questions you would have asked in class on a Canvas discussion board, using VoiceThread, or a class email thread. For large classes, consider dividing your class into small groups, such as through Canvas Groups.

  • Assign students to pairs or small groups to discuss the assigned topic via phone, Zoom or Google voice. You could ask them to report key takeaways or summary points from their discussions via email.

  • Keep in mind that when you shift discussion-based communication online, students will benefit by having clear expectations for participation (e.g. that discussion posts should be well-written and meet established course norms for collegial exchange; length or number of responses expected).

  • Use a series of short reflection assignments to help students think through readings and show their effort. The prompt for the reflection pieces can be simple (“Analyze a key idea from today’s reading”) or more complex (“Contrast a key idea from today’s reading with one from last week’s reading”). Let students know that this is a low-stakes assignment meant to spur their thinking.

  • Assess low-stakes writing based on effort using a simple scale (check plus, check, check minus, zero) or allow it to be ungraded. Keep responding to a minimum; offer a one-sentence response to each piece or offer a single group comment that responds to insights from across the class.

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