University of Wisconsin–Madison

Engaging with readings in online courses

I work hard to put together a syllabus of relevant readings for online courses, but I feel that students sometimes don’t know why particular readings are assigned. I’ve tried a couple of methods – using the discussion board, divide students into group of 10 or less, and assign one student to “lead” the discussion – post a summary of a selected class readings with discussion starter questions. That works pretty well but gets really draggy if I do it every week – other ideas?

Discussion forums will be set up in the Learn@UW course. There will be FOUR types:

1. Graded Readings/Topical discussions – Discussion topics and associated readings will be listed on the course readings list (below, and in the Learn@UW course reserves), and each student will be responsible for leading a discussion on one of the readings/topics, as well as responding to other leaser’s posts.

“Leading” will consist of posting a summary of and reaction to one reading, early enough in the week so that other students can respond. You may include questions intended to get discussion going in this initial post if you wish. Students will be able to sign up to lead during the first week of the course. Students are also encouraged to go off the course topics/readings list for articles or readings on which to base a discussion, and select readings they feel are relevant to the class, that they have encountered in real life. If you bring in a reading, be sure to post either a full citation at minimum, or even better, link to the reading you have chosen, so your classmates can get it easily. These discussions will close at the end of each topic so students are required to post by the deadline to earn points. I will post summaries of the readings discussions when each topic closes, with my teacher comments and digests of all the messages.

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