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What Facilitates Peer Collaboration and Discussion Forums_1

What Facilitates Peer Collaboration and Discussion Forums_1

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Published by Farnoush Davis

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Categories:Types, School Work
Published by: Farnoush Davis on Feb 23, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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What facilitates peer collaboration and discussion forums to make adult online instruction moreeffective?
The procedure of teaching and learning has changed from a teacher-centered to a student center environment. Given this fact, the structure of online learning is based on constructivism and supportssocial learning theories. ³The interactions between students and teachers changed as well in thatpersonal communication and discussion increased and became more detailed and deeper´ (McNeil & etal, 2000, p. 700). To build an online learning community in order to achieve the online learning goals, theinstructor must provide opportunities to interact, collaborate, create a learning environment, and reflect onthoughts and experiences. Although social aspects of interactions might not affect the instructionalobjectives directly, they indeed affect the learning process (McNeil & et al, 2000).In terms of building an online learning community, the learner¶s contribution and involvement indiscussion forums, small group activities, and proposing ideas based on real-life experience engagesthem with the course content, the instructor, and with each other.  Communication in online courses canoccur via synchronous and asynchronous tools; however, the asynchronous communication option hasmore potential in terms of a community building of an online class (Palloff & Pratt, 2007). McNeil ad et alin Facilitating interaction, communication and collaboration in online courses (2000, p.702) have listed thebenefits of asynchronous communication:
The quality of postings and homework increased because of peer review.
Students learned from postings and online discussion with other students as well asinstructor.
The ability to think about a topic, collect and organize thoughts and check grammar andspelling was valuable before posting.
There was more time for comments because there was no competition for a certainamount of class time.
Students who learned English as a second language felt less at a disadvantage becausethey could think about what they wanted to say, translate if necessary and then post.
Students valued being able to read and post at a convenient time and place.
Students felt more a part of class and more connected with their classmates because of more interaction and communication.Those designing online collaborative learning activities should consider both the learning and teachingaspects. It has been found that team forming is difficult in an asynchronous way because the memberslog on at their convenience (Palloff & Pratt, 2007). However, Palloff and Pratt mentioned that ³enoughtime along with encouragement and reminders from the instructor can help the situation´ (2007). Thenumber of the group members should be small and the activity instructions and expectations should bewell explained by the instructor. The objectives and standards for the group activity also need to be clear 
at the beginning. Palloff and Pratt in Building Online Learning Communities (2007, pp. 165-6) listed someguidelines which facilitate online collaborating:
How will the group communicate?
What roles or duties will each person in the group performs?
Who is responsible for posting group responses to the main discussion board?
How will the group handle a member that is not participating?
Discuss any other topics that are unique to your group.For effective group work, the learners should have cooperative skills to do the activity. They need tocoordinate their work with others in the group. They need to have an outline of the goals, tasks, anddeadline to feel commitment to the group and the activity. The above-mentioned aspects will help tocreate successful collaboration
the instructor designs, manages, and monitors the activity so that eachstudent understands the expectations and their own responsibilities for participating in the activity.
actors for effective online peer collaboration in graduate-level
Espinoza and McKinzie in Online Collaboration: Two Models, designed activities for their graduatestudents to complete collaboratively between large groups with less instructor¶s interaction. The resultshowed that although students are at a graduate level, they still need the instructor¶s active participationand detailed and specific instructions. In spite of each student¶s responsibilities for completing the tasks of the project and learning outcomes of the project, the students still need to know if they are following theright course and need to receive feedback from the instructor on their progress. Another lesson learnedfrom this study was that students work more effectively and productively in small groups, where they canparticipate in a way that lets them feel they are contributing (Espinoza & McKinzie,1999).
There are two types of online collaboration: synchronous, like live chat, and asynchronous, likediscussion forums. As I mentioned above, each have good and bad points.  For online instruction weneed to identify the principles that facilitate peer collaboration and discussion forums effectively. Theseprinciples are:1. Comprehensible objectives, instructions, and expectations for the group activity2. Small numbers for each group3. Coordination and participation from each member of the group4. Clear outline of tasks and deadlines for the group members5. Regular contribution with group membersThe key to facilitating collaboration using these principles is in the role of the instructor to use them, andmake the initial participation mandatory. By beginning with a clear structure, mandatory activities and

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