Template 3 - seminar by Moodle Discussion Forum over a short period

Eden Templates for Online Classes and Seminars

Scenario: this is intended to replace a face to face seminar of one hour through written contributions, more-or-less synchronously.
It involves the tutor setting activities, then viewing student responses and commenting on them. One of the activities is a group activity, and the session includes the possibility of students commenting on each other's contributions. It is intended for a group of up to 20 students. More general guidance on using a Forum for a seminar is available here.

Advance preparation:

  • Class/seminar teacher

    • Choose questions and activities from your seminar plan that are possible to carry out as written activities.

    • Create in Moodle one main discussion Forum, and a thread within that, to guide the seminar. Post a message here more than a day in advance, confirming that this is the location for the seminar, and giving seminar times.

    • Create three Moodle chat spaces (select 'Add an Activity' on Moodle, and 'Chat') for group discussion. Give them distinct names (e.g. chat A, chat B).

    • Write some of the substantial pieces of texts for the seminar:

      • a welcome message

      • the instructions for student activities

      • some mid-way comments on the readings or closing points.

  • All students – do readings and view relevant lecture; find the seminar Forum.



Just before start

  1. Post a welcome message for students as they arrive in the Forum.

    1. Ask students not to post straight away

    2. Tell them at what time the first questions/instructions will be posted

    3. Encourage good online etiquette: suggest students engage constructively, as in an ordinary seminar.



Opening activity (15 mins)

  1. Post initial questions/activity instructions to the group.

    1. Students can work on different questions/activities if you post more than one. They can choose themselves, or you can allocate them: by name, or randomly e.g. Surnames starting A-J answer question 1.

    2. Specify what output you want from students. For example, every student should post once in the Forum. Give a rough word limit. Reassure students that sharing ideas is more important than good writing, and spelling and grammar will not be commented on.

    3. Set a deadline for the students to post.



Reading period after first activity (5 mins)

  1. When the deadline arrives, post thanking students for their contributions. Ask them not to edit their own contributions.

  2. Ask students to spend five minutes reading the contributions. You can be directive, for example suggesting they look for missing elements or additional evidence.

  3. Use the time to look over student posts and identify some useful points or misconceptions.

  4. Write brief notes, summarising or elaborating as you might in a face-to-face seminar, and post them to the Forum at the end of the reading period.

    1. Write a single summary response post, rather than replying individually to student's posts, as this is time-consuming, and creates an expectation of individual attention. However, you can cut and paste some useful points from student posts. 

    2. You could also include here some pre-prepared comments drawing on the readings/lecture.



Second Activity, group task (25 mins)

  1. Post pre-prepared instructions for a group activity.

    1. Allocate students to the discussion spaces you want them to use, by name or by another system of allocation. Post links to the Chat areas and direct them to go there.

    2. Tell students what you need them to produce as an output, such as a 200-word post in the main Forum per group. Set a deadline.

  2. Check in on Chat areas to make sure there are no significant technical problems or confusion about the task.



Second activity overview with possible student feedback (5-15 mins)

  1. When the deadline arrives, again post to thank students for their contributions, and ask them not to edit their own contributions.

  2. Tell students to read the other groups' contributions.

    1. If time allow, you could ask students individually to write a post a short response to another group's post. Be directive about what they should comment on: for example, ask them to identify something that is missing, or offer additional support or evidence. Set a deadline.

  3. While students read each other's work, look over the group posts. Write brief notes.



Closing remarks (5 mins)

  1. Post some closing remarks. You could include:

    1. Your comments on the group posts.

    2. Brief comments about the seminar as a whole.

    3. Pre-prepared comments on the week's topics, or on the assessment.

    4. Thanks for students' participation

    5. Let students know whether the Forum and chats records will remain visible.

    6. The set-up for the following seminar, if any.