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Information Competency Gavilan College Spring 2006
Module 32
Communication in the Online Classroom

    Communication in a online classroom can be classified in the following ways:

    Between the teacher and the whole class or groups of students Forum
    Between the teacher and individual students Messaging
    Between a student and the whole class or groups Forums / Groups
    Between individual students Messaging

    As you become more fluent with the online classroom, you will start to see how almost any interactions possible in a traditional classroom can be reproduced online.

  1. Discussion boards: Group communication

      Many teachers find the "forum" or discussion board, to be the most comfortable and versatile tool for group discussions. Messages posted on a forum can be read by the teacher and all students. There's also an option (called 'subscribing') where the messages posted in a forum are sent to someone's email address as well.

      Forums can be started by the teacher with an inital post, conversation starter, or discussion prompt. They can be structured as one long line of posts and responses, OR students can be given the option to start their own "threads", in which case the forum will have "branches" where conversations can take different directions.

  2. Messaging: One to One communication

      By going to anybody's 'profile' page, you can 'Send a Message' to that person. This is a private message between two people. It is similar to email, but the communication never leaves the Moodle system. (However if the recipient doesn't log in within a certain time, the message will also get emailed to them.)

      Messaging is useful in a class setting when answering unique questions; private matters, or anything else that doesn't need to be shared with the class as a whole.

      Messages can be sent from students to other students as well.

  3. Small groups

      There is a mechanism for turning on a 'Groups' option in Moodle. Turning this on allows a teacher to mark some (or all) forums as 'Group Mode'. In this situation, a separate forum will exist for each of the groups. Students will see the forum for their own group, and the teacher will be able to see all of them.

      In order to use this feature, the teacher will have to create the groups and select which students belong to each group. Once this is done, group mode can be turned on for any of the activities in the online class.

      The new options that appear with 'Groups' turned on can be overwhelming. In a forum, there are options to:

      1. Have a separate forum for each group, while the other groups' forums
      2. are invisible
      3. Have a separate forum for each group, while the other groups' forums
      4. are visible but read-only
      5. Have a separate forum for each group, but students can still post
      6. to any group's forum.

      Which one to choose depends on the goals of the course. Remember that more options tends to increase the chances for your students to be confused, so you may want to start with the simplest options. You can always expand from them as the class becomes accustomed to their use.

      Teachers can use groups in the same variety of ways that groups get used in face to face classes: correcting each other's work, having smaller, closer discussions, brainstorming, projects, et cetera.