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Promoting Interaction Through Discussions: Part 2 Cognitive Activities

Promoting Interaction Through Discussions: Part 2 Cognitive Activities Generated image, Deepai April 2024

Karen Kortz, Professor, Physics and Engineering

It is important that students connect with each other to help build a learning community and reduce isolation, and this is particularly important in online classes. Discussion boards can help students connect with each other and therefore can address the federal requirement of including Regular and Substantive Interaction (RSI) and OSCQR Standards 29, 30, 31, 40, 41, 42, 43 and 47 in online courses. These OSCQR standards, in part, satisfy OSCQR level 1 and 3 reviews.

Discussion board prompts can help with social connections and metacognition (students thinking about their own learning) and cognitive activities. Part 1 of this blog focused on social activities and metacognition. This blog post discusses how discussion boards can also promote cognitive activities and address learning outcomes of the course. Overall, these prompts tend to be stronger when they are personal to the students, such as asking them to apply topics to their own lives or giving them choice based on their interests.

Below are some of my favorite prompts that promote cognitive activities. Although I use them in my geology and astronomy classes, I hope these ideas can be used as a springboard to brainstorm ideas in a variety of disciplines.

  • Research a topic. I give the students a list of topics and ask them to pick one to research, giving them specific things to include in their post, including how it relates to the current learning module (plus 2 additional things they found interesting about the topic). In my list of topics, I try to include a variety of cultures and locations, so students can choose something that is meaningful to them. 

  • Create AI poetry. I ask students to ask an AI text generator (e.g., ChatGPT, Google Bard) to write a haiku, limerick, acrostic poem, or other short poem, or to write their own. They need to prompt AI to include information of their choosing that is specific to the learning module. Students critique the poem based on how accurate it is. 

  • Survey friends and family. I ask students to survey their friends and family with a specific question that relates to a common misconception (e.g., Is the middle of the ocean the deepest part?). Students report back how their friends and family responded, and they relate the responses to what they learned in that learning module. 

  • Find a video, webpage, or picture. I ask students to find a video or webpage beyond the learning resources provided that helps them learn specific content. Students post the link and a screenshot and explain why that specific part was particularly helpful to their learning. 

In Part 3 of this blog, I will discuss how I try to promote quality student responses. 

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