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This fall, instructors at virtually every higher education institution across the country will be using technology in new ways to support teaching and learning. Some instructors will be teaching remotely; others will find themselves in a physical classroom, but with a limited number of students in attendance to facilitate social distancing. In both cases, instructors will likely rely on video conferencing and other technologies to deliver lectures and facilitate student interaction.
In either of these scenarios, instructors who believe learning is deepened when students work collaboratively to explore ideas will face new challenges. While video conferencing tools do provide a few different ways for students to interact, those interactions are typically limited to class time. Instructors who want to use technology more successfully to extend what can happen in an online environment should also consider asynchronous tools in addition to live or recorded video sessions.
Why? Simply put, asynchronous tools aren’t bound by time or space. Platforms like Chat and discussion forums extend the “walls” of the classroom in new, more flexible ways. While both are sometimes maligned--chat for being too “light” and discussion forums for being too perfunctory, asynchronous tools can be used in powerful ways to facilitate student interaction--especially if the platform you’re using combines both to support authentic engagement.
Below, I focus on discussion forums, since that’s a tool that most instructors and students are likely to have access to. Here are three ways to use discussion forums this fall to expand what’s possible in your classroom--whether that’s in a physical space, online, or somewhere in between:
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