One of the instructor's roles in online classes is to facilitate discussions. This means instructors are not only helping to clarify material and expand the knowledge of the students, they are keeping students focused on the topic while continuing to build and maintain unity among students. That is a lot to do in an online discussion! Once a strong community is formed students have the ability to freely share their thoughts and experiences with each other without the fear of being criticized. This allows for a more active learning environment where students can learn from the experiences of others and share their own.
I practiced my discussion facilitation skills in a class for educators. The forum was about Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and I asked students, "What assumptions exist in the general population about genetically modified organisms (GMOs)? No research needed, just tell me what you think." My thought was to get an idea of what people in the general population, who may not have a biology background like me, think about GMOs. I had assumed that since I've heard about GMOs in the news, and many people I know have specific stances on the topic, that other students would know about them and also have a stance.
One really important point that I realized during this discussion was that if you ask my neighbor, a suburban stay-at-home mom and Navy wife, about GMOs and Monsanto she would claim they are ruining our health and the environment. If you ask a farmer's daughter, GMOs are fine and help maintain the family income because insecticide genes inserted in the plant mean pests will not eat their entire crop. It was a great learning experience for me in understanding where people get their information and how different situations can affect people's perspective. Sharing these different experiences is a great way for people to lean from one another!
Created June 27, 2014