Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Interesting Ways to Use the "Approve Messages" Function in the D2L Discussion

In case you're not familiar, there is an option in D2L to require student discussion messages to be approved before being viewable by other students. That used to sound tedious and unnecessary to me because I assumed it was used by instructors who were overly concerned about students posting wrong or inappropriate information (which may be the intended use), but I learned about a few interesting ways to use it.

1. When you want to avoid students reading each others' messages and using others' work to write their message. Some students will bide their time, read the messages of the early posters, and use them to craft their response. As an experienced online learner, I admit to posting among the middle of the pack so I could read others' messages first and see if I was on track. It's not that I copied their information, but I often joined the discussion after checking the temperature, I guess you could say.

Now, good discussion questions shouldn't have a right or wrong answer and you can ask the students to incorporate information or examples from their lives to personalize the response. That said, the first students who post are probably the overachievers who do well in the class and will have good ideas that others might reiterate or reword to make it seem like their own.

Some instructors try to get around this by telling students they have to cite different information or take a different stance than the previous posters, but that doesn't always work for the question being asked and I don't know if it is an effective learning strategy.

So, a way to use technology to get around this is to set the messages to require approval, and then unapprove all of them at the same time and open it up for responses. I think this could actually improve engagement, because I'd be really interested if I saw someone else had unknowingly had the same ideas as me.

In lieu of the dropbox for URLs. To use the dropbox, a file needs to be uploaded. So if you want the students to submit URLs for a project they created, they'd have to paste the URL in a Word doc and then upload that to the dropbox. Word doesn't need to be involved in this process, unless you do want some sort of text analysis along with the URL. If you want the students to see each others' projects, you can use a regular discussion, which can be nice if you want them to comment on each others' work. If you don't want them to see each others', or you want them to see each others' after they all submitted so they aren't able to modify theirs based on others', a discussion board requiring approval could work well.

In lieu of the dropbox for questions with right/wrong answers, unit summaries, etc (occasions you don't really want the students to see each others' responses ever or until after they write their own or if you just want to share a few good ones). The dropbox is just kind of cumbersome, with the uploading and downloading of files, and then if you get a really good response you want to share with others, you need to then either copy/paste or reupload the content. If you used a discussion forum with approval required, you could have the students submit a response to a question that has a right or wrong answer (preferably requiring substantial text, because you could just use a quiz if it was a word or two), and then you can either keep them all hidden (unapproved) from the other students and grade them, or you can open up a few good examples for the group to read, which can both help them learn how to write well for next time and to improve their comprehension of the content. And who doesn't like a little recognition for work well done? It always made me smile when the instructor chose my work to share as a good example.

Here are some screenshots: 

NOTE: If you use the approve messages function, make sure to let the students know what is going on, because it can be disconcerting to be unable to review their message. Below is showing what the students see after they post their messages (Approving messages is the title of my topic). Even after posting, it will say "No messages to display."

The image below is showing the box that needs to be checked/unchecked to require approval.

Below is what it looks like when the instructor clicks on the topic to read the messages.

And here is what it looks like when the instructor clicks on an individual message, if the goal is to approve them individually.

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