I made my first optional discussion forum post this evening in my chosen online course; BlendedX Blended Learning with edX.
I decided to share my experience of using Yammer as a way to facilitate online synchronous discussion between students and staff. My post can be viewed in the course discussion forum or below:
Using Yammer to facilitate online synchronous discussions
I am an eLearning Developer working for a Higher Education Institution based in Scotland.
One of the lecturers I work with struggled to find a suitable piece of technology or platform to allow both staff and students to communicate online synchronously (real-time) in her online distance learning MSc module. The module is broken down into a series of weekly units. The students (total of 11) are both domestic (from the UK) and international, so a real mix of backgrounds. All are professional practitioners in the Health Nursing and Midwifery industry.
The lecturer was wanting to have weekly discussions on a focused topic for 45 minutes relating to the unit’s materials. The lecturer created a link within the module to the Yammer board and ‘seed question’, which she monitored. The students commented and reflected on the seed question relating to the units materials posted by the lecturer. But what we found was students began to reflect on their own professional practice and their peers – this led to an exchange of knowledge and good practice across various disciplines. The students also discussed the nursing practices from their own countries as well, which very much added to the community feel we were wanting to accomplish.
The social media platform that was chosen to facilitate the above was Yammer. As this offered a secure environment for both staff and students, and had a similar look and feel to Facebook – which both staff and students were familiar with.
The success of the above trail led to the Yammer groups and boards being created for the other 9 modules within the programme and saw the concept being rolled out to other Health Nursing and Midwifery programmes.
Yammer is more effective when relatively small groups participate, between 6 – 12 students. The lecturer found it hard to monitor the flow of conversation when larger groups of students were involved.
Make sure you set up the purpose of the topic of conversation well in advance of the discussion session. Giving student’s time to prepare and read the materials is important, along with giving them adequate time to formulate a answer or post. We found when students weren’t prepared they were less inclined to post or participate.
Set ground rules for netiquette, let students know what appropriate behaviour for online conversation is.