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Building Community w/Adult Learners

This post also came from the webinar I discussed in my last post. In polling veteran online teachers and trainers, building community consistently comes up as one of the most significant factors leading to a successful learning experience for students.

One participant asked the presenter how she accomplished that and she said that she uses the discussion board to facilitate discussions, collaboration and relationship-building. She went on to say that the one thing that can kill a discussion board forum is a bad question and that adult learners often need questions crafted differently from students.This is what she suggests for creating an engaging question for adult learners.

Questions need to be crafted correctly and ask something that demands engagement, application of an idea and be related to something they experienced. Adult learners view everything through a "lens of experience." They make judgements and connections based on their past experiences. If you frame a DB question so that it asks them to share their thoughts through that lens, they are more likely to want to share and in doing so, they will also be sharing about themselves which also promotes the building of relationships. Questions like: how can you personally relate to this topic? what experiences have you had with this topic? tell us about how your experiences shape your opinion on this topic? what does this topic remind you of?

When questions are framed in this way, it also allows adults to learn the same concept through the "lens" of a peer who may have had a completely different experience or one that is very similar. If the response is different, it offers a perspective that the learner may not have considered. If the response if similar, it builds a connection between learners.

I know our A`o Makua DB questions do ask participants to reply based on what they already know or feel or have experienced. I think some of the questions, in the culture courses, could be more specific and point out a major concept for them to relate to. We tried to leave a lot of the questions really opened ended and that might make it too nebulous. I like how, in Ka Na`i Aupuni, the DB questions are very specific and provides enough info. in the prompt so that even if you didn't really go through all the content, you can still relate on a personal level to the questions. We might want to consider re-evaluating the DB questions as we're working through revising the culture courses.

I think this also has implications for facilitating the forums. If the goal is to encourage participants to reply from their "lens," we can do more to ask follow-up questions to have them elaborate. We can build connections by pointing out who has similar experiences and highlight those that offer a clearly different perspective. We can also let them know that it is their experiences that we're genuinely interested in so when they do open up, we need to acknowledge their post and let them know that we appreciate it. Again doing this in a way that facilitates and doesn't intrude too much on the peer interactions is also a consideration.

A lot of this we already know, but I think it's good to be reminded and to have our practices validated. Some of us will have some real practice soon with faciltating our sections of "Ka Na`i Aupuni." :) Maybe we can share how our DB forums went and some strategies that we used.



Christy said…
Mahalo Kelly for sharing your two posts. I think this is something we should definitely think about in course revisions. It's always a challenge to get the right question to foster discussion but the examples you gave will put us on the right path. It's the perfect time to evaluate the L1 discussions and see how we can improve that for greater conversation. I like the idea of sharing how our L2 facilitation goes and if the setup of the forums increased posts and interaction.

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