The social nature of CN makes it a great tool for student-centered, authentic online discussion. In this article, we share 10 tips to help instructors engage students in social discussion and online community building.
1. Share something that will make your students think, enjoy, or feel positive, such as thought-provoking TED Talks, informative articles, fun facts, encouraging quotes, and learning tips.
2. Post notes to remind your students about upcoming class events and submission deadlines. You could also upload necessary files to the CN Task tool, such as handouts. These contents will create "reasons" for students to return to CN.
3. Encourage your students to post links to online resources, such as journal articles, news, and Youtube videos related to course topics, and share their reflections. This allows them to connect what they learn with the real world. They may also share their own work (photos, drawings, audio files, short videos, and documents). You can give extra points for this activity by setting up a course Anar Seeds goal. For example, 250 Anar Seeds count for 10% of the course grade.
4. Suggest discussion topics every week. Think of 1-2 related to the current learning topic and invite everyone to discuss them. Give students specific questions to guide their thinking and articulation, or provide general prompts such as "share anything you found interesting about...". Give these prompts through the CN Task tool or the Assignments tool in your LMS (if using CN Post). You may also select student leads to come up with weekly talking points and/or respond to posts.
5. Allow and encourage the students to ask any question they have. If they don’t know how to solve a problem or tackle a project, they can seek help from peers. Ask students to use hashtag #Questions to label their posts so that you will be able to easily filter these posts and provide help.
7. Invite students to look into a topic and have initial reflections and discussions in CN, then, look at student posts during class time to develop the conversation. This way, you will flip the class! Flipped Classroom is a new instructional approach that has students learn a new topic on their own and come to class to dive into the topic.
8. With younger students, such as first-year college students, when your course is entirely online, you may have them post about their weekly status/progress (status-check posts), then encourage them to give each other learning tips and encouragement. You can turn the social discussion space into a supportive learning community where students feel connected and support each other.
9. Use the Poll tool to survey students' opinions, seek feedback, and create pop quizzes before tests and exams. Students will soon pick the idea and create polls to engage with each other.
10. Encourage students to view their CN participation as an enjoyable experience rather than an assignment to complete. It is an experience to have great conversations, to help and learn from each other, and to achieve new perspectives.