Blackboard Impressions: Allocating Marks for the Discussion Forum

For the first time I allocated 5% of the marks for subject INFT215 .NET Programming Environment for contributing to a discussion forum hosted on the iLearn site (see assessment instructions). This led to the most active discussion forum I have experienced (out of approximately 15 previous forums in my classes). Over our semester 062 there were 16 active students who contributed 401 posts out of a total of 430 (the remainder being my own posts). This is 25 forum posts per student where only 20 were required. I have assumed the students continued to use the forum because it was useful to them. The top four students accumulated 56, 43, 37 and 34 posts respectively. ilearn-forum

I expected forum use to be slow initially with a ramp up of usage as the semester came to a close. The actual usage showed a reasonably even spread through the semester. Forum pages accounted for 66% of all iLearn site hits across the semester! A totally unexpected outcome. The next most popular topic area was Announcements with 20% of all hits.

As part of an end-of-semester survey answered by 12 students out of 16 about the use of iLearn and other subject matters I asked for feedback on the discussion forum. To the question “I thought the marks allocated to my use of the discussion board were beneficial to my learning” the answers on a Likert scale were 8 to 3 for Strongly Agree & Agree against Strongly Disagree & Disagree. When asked to comment on good and bad points on using the discussion forum a representative collection of feedback was:

  • To be marked for the discussion board I think is really good because you have to interact with people. You can either help or be helped.
  • I didn’t quite liked the discussion board and I felt stressed about creating entries which isn’t good.
  • Well, for the discussion board, it was really a great thing. I’ve never seen such a productive and active discussion board before.
  • I found the discussion board useful but I don’t necessarily agree that it should form part of the assessment.
  • It’s a useful way of communicating if you need to but not to be forced to in
    order to obtain marks.
  • I guess i liked the discussion board was pretty useful when u needed help/information.
  • The discussion board was great as it linked all the students to each other without actually having to care about wether or not they were on your ‘buddy list’. You could ask questions or find answers to questions that were already asked, or provide answers.

The consensus seemed to be that forum participation is worthwhile and leads to useful communication within the class as a whole. Being forced into this communication was sometimes viewed as a problem.

One outlying comment from a confessed Business student was that Google “is the faster way to get answers and if I found a solution or had a good idea I don?t necessarily want to share that with everybody”!

I felt that the discussion forum outcomes were positive for the students. With all classes taking place in a teaching lab it was possible for the students to participate in the forum while I was speaking. This occurred on several occasions and gave me useful feedback immediately after the class!


About Michael Rees
Academic in IT interested in Web 2.0 and social media

One Response to Blackboard Impressions: Allocating Marks for the Discussion Forum

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