This is an example for online discussion guidelines that I provide to my students. Providing students with guidelines for online engagement helps build a safer community in which students can feel that they belong and can share their experiences with others.
We are hoping to build a community of learning that is based on trust and respect, so we can all feel comfortable sharing our reflections, knowledge and ideas with one another. In addition to our verbal agreements and communication guidelines in class, it is important that we follow these online agreements:
- Our discussions will focus on the assigned content, and not on personal opinions (personal stories may be shared to demonstrate understanding of concepts but not to share an opinion). One of our primary commitments is to learn to take in new perspectives.
- Agreement vs. Understanding. We will be acquiring knowledge that many of us may not have received before now. The purpose of in-class discussions, activities, and written assignments will be to demonstrate your understanding of this transformative knowledge; agreement is neither essential nor required. Understanding is defined as to know the meaning of, comprehension of, knowledge of, gather information about, explore. Agreement is defined as to have the same opinion, consensus among, meeting of minds, dogmatic, set decision.
- Be Respectful. We acknowledge differences amongst us and agree to treat each other with respect and grace. Be mindful of taking up much more space than others. On the same note, empower yourself to speak up when others are dominating the conversation. Practice listening; don’t interrupt, let people finish. Keep in mind that people are at different developmental stages of their understanding of these concepts. Practice mindfulness; if you are at an advanced level of understanding, consider how you might contribute to everyone’s learning.
- Stay engaged. The content of this class tends to evoke personal reactions. Be prepared to feel uncomfortable, which is not the same as feeling unsafe. Students may feel one or more of the following at any given time: shock, denial, anger, sadness, disillusion, hopeless, guilty. Know that these are all normal and that you are not alone. And though these feelings are uncomfortable to experience, please know that you are in a safe environment to experience them. We ask that you stay open to listening and learning despite these feelings. If you are not feeling anything, ask yourself “Am I fully engaged?” You are encouraged to journal or seek out the instructor to process your feelings.
- Expect and accept non-closure. We are socialized to find solutions and closure to issues. Engaging in these discussions means there will be times of non-closure or solution. This may be another source of feeling uncomfortable. This is ongoing work for everyone that does not necessarily leave one walking away with positive feelings. Be willing to take risks and accept that much of this is about changing yourself and your perspective and not others.
Student Conduct Expectations
All students must conduct themselves as responsible college community members by following the Student Code of Conduct (www.lwtech.edu/studentconduct). The Student Code of Conduct applies to conduct on-campus (at all times), while participating in off-site college sponsored activities (including field trips and online classes), and off-campus (when the actions/behavior impact the college community). While students are participating in face to face or online classes, prohibited behavior includes but is not limited to: use of drugs, alcohol, or tobacco products, and/or being observably under the influence of drugs or alcohol while participating in classes. All potential student conduct violations will be referred to the student conduct officer.
Example: Guidelines for On-line Discussion Boards
Using on-line discussion boards in your classes can be a great way to foster interaction between students, through which students can learn from one another, share their ideas, knowledge and reflections, and respond to one another. It is important to post clear discussion questions and instructions for the students and provide clear instructions of your expectations.
Here is a example for discussion board instructions that I provide to my students:
Discussion Board Initial Post is usually due by 11:59PM on the night before Tuesday’s class. This allows for the class content to be spaced out appropriately and for you to meaningfully reply to one of your peer’s post.
You will use Canvas to post to the discussion board. After each reading, there will be a prompt for you to answer. Usually the prompt will be to reflect on two main ideas and explain how they connect with concepts and terms discussed in the readings. You will also reply to one of your peer’s reflection posts, demonstrating your understanding and/or providing additional information.
In order to complete these assignments, please do the following:
- Copy and paste the text of your reflection into the response area.
- Optional: Attach a Word document of your reflection paper.
- Respond to the posted reflections of at least 2 of your peers in the class.
Refer to the Principles of Writing and Writing Guidelines below when writing your reflection paper and responding to your peers.
It is important to practice good writing skills using this content. Following are expected guidelines for written assignments:
- Clearly identify the main point and tell the reader the purpose
- Be easy to follow
- Be well organized, with clear introduction paragraph, body paragraph(s), and a concluding paragraph
- Use relevant sources to develop ideas (when applicable)
- Appropriately cite all sources used
- Address specifics brought up by the assignment
- Follow rules of grammar and mechanics
Principles of Writing:
Students will be engaging with the course content through online discussions, as well as through written methods: reflections on readings, media reflections, journal writing, and a final project. Full and considered engagement with the readings and online discussions is critical in the writing aspects of this class. Some principles for writing that will be helpful to you as a guide are:
- Meaningful and responsible engagement with key concepts
- Exploration and understanding of terms, concepts, and systems
- Connections between system concepts, individual experiences, and observations
- Active examination and synthesizing of course readings
- Discussion of relationship between social Positionality and larger systems of oppression (the isms)
- Seek to ask questions that do not have answers
- Pay attention to reactions to readings and in-class experiences and examine it from a different perspective
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