Friday, September 12, 2008

ECER 2008 - Contributing and Participating in Academic Seminar Discourse

Live blog from a session at ECER 2008.

Presented by Lars-Erik Jonsson and Roger Säljö from Gothenburg University, Sweden.

Students attending seminars can sometimes leave the seminar either annoyed that they were not able to make a full contribution or relieved they were not found out! Online seminars can help both groups of students.

The project tried to encourage useful participation by structuring the online experience:
  • Sharing an experience
  • Friendly atmosphere
  • Synchronising activities
  • Aiming for dialogue rather than monologue
The project also had student moderators who encouraged and focus discussion. One student was very effective at encouraging and participants from other groups would listen in on her group.


Participants must be prepared. In a face to face-to-face seminar, students can hide. Online, you have to contribute or effectively you are not there. To contribute, you have to prepare. Harder to hide your lack of preparation.

Writing is a powerful tool for the development of thinking.

Asynchronous contributions allow thinking time

More or less eliminates plagiarism - difficult to see how you could get someone else to write all your contributions for you. Also, during the discussions, you get to know the students and listen to their written "voice".

See Jonsson and Säljö's chapter in Institutional Transformation through Best Practices in Virtual Campus Development: Advancing E-Learning Policies

Question and Answer: It is of course possible for a participant's post is ignored. Partly this is the job of the tutor to ensure students are not overlooked.

Student moderators may not be necessary but makes students active and is valuable. However you cannot expect students to have a productive discussion on their own. You need a tutor asking difficult questions and pushing for better discussion. Social chat is encouraged but shouldn't be allowed to dominate.

Do some students benefit more than others from these seminars than others. [To be fair, this is true of any seminar - probably any form of learning! - DM] Some students will feel more of an outsider and as tutors we must be aware of this.

Is there a problem in using eLearning to learn about eLearning? The reponse was along the lines of, "Well that's what we do!" :-) Learning about learning is almost inherently circular in nature!

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