Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Making an MBA manageable: Post University's Online Discussion Forum Guideline

Online discussion forums are crucial to engaging students. They are a primary part of our online MBA program (for which I'm an Academic Program Manager). On average, about 40 percent of our students' final grade is determined based on their contribution to our online discussion forums.

Our students and instructors post hundreds of substantive and relevant contributions every week to our online discussion forums, covering academic information and practical work experience. This asynchronous teaching model gives students time to reflect, research, and support their postings with references and citations.

However, we've found that contributing to and managing the online discussion forums can be a challenging task from a time and workload perspective. There is a rich volume of content that our instructors need to manage and evaluate every week.

And our students, especially working adults, need to balance their work schedule and Post's accelerated education requirements. From where they sit, our online discussion forums are crucial to their education, and they need to be productive, relevant, and efficient.

So the challenge we've faced is how to provide our students with the best possible online discussion forum learning experience, while keeping this task manageable for our instructors. We've recently implemented an Online Discussion Guideline for all our teaching staff, faculty, and adjuncts to help achieve this balance.

I presented it in November at the 2010 Sloan Consortium International Conference on Online Learning. Below you can look through my presentation, which covers the guideline we developed, why we developed it, our goals in creating it, how we're implementing it, and some early feedback and outcomes.
We'll continue to keep you informed on our Online Discussion Forum Guideline development and how it's working for our students and instructors.