Allowing students a choice in the topic they want to discuss grants them autonomy in their learning, which can be motivating, improve performance, and provide a more satisfying learning experience. (Bonk & Kahoo, 2014). Multiple discussion options that allow a student to choose between analysis, application, or synthesis, by default, create small discussion groups based on interest. Therefore, students can explore their chosen topic in greater depth.
“I don’t like it when professors provide big, vague prompts and expect students to respond to every single question…It’s better when professors provide three structured posting areas for one week and tell us to post 1 initial discussion and 2-3 follow-ups. That way we can bounce around and read each discussion board without having to repeat what has already been said. It gives us the freedom to pick what interests us and follow it down a rabbit hole.”
- Allow students to choose from different prompts, such as scenarios or tracks (e.g., general management or technical).
- Consider whether to require an original post. What is the purpose of the original post? Requiring a set number of posts over a period of time, rather than one original and several follow-up posts, may allow students more choice in how to engage, creating a more authentic discussion.
MBA Consumer Behavior: in this course, Dr. Bublitz allows students to choose among discussion topics in most of the weekly discussions. During the week in which they are studying segmentation and consumer behavior influences, students can choose to discuss gender differences, generational differences, or US diversity and the global marketplace. Each topic has its own prompts, and students can read all three discussions, but are asked to participate in only one.
MBA Health Care Organization and Delivery: in this course, Dr. Johs-Artisensi uses a similar approach. During the first week, as students review the US health system, they can choose to discuss delayed or deferred care, changing trends, problems, or for-profit providers. Again, the prompts are topic-specific.
When asked why she uses this approach, Dr. Johs-Artisensi says, “Given the breadth of topics I’d like to cover, there is simply not room in a 2-credit course. This approach at least alerts all students to the … breadth of issues (by seeing the posed questions) and allows the students, who come from a variety of backgrounds and have different interests and motivations for taking the course, to tailor their learning experience to topics of most interest/usefulness.”
Dr. Bublitz offers this advice, “I think variety and choice can be offered in different ways. For example, a case can be dissected from many points of view; any topic of debate has multiple sides and different stakeholders to consider. However, there may be some times you want to pull people together to make sure a key concept from the week or the class reaches all the students.”
Bonk, C. J., & Khoo, E. (2014). Adding some tec-variety: 100+ activities for motivating and retaining learners online. Bloomington, IN: Open World Books. Available online: http://tec-variety.com/