Anne's Portfolio Page


Arr.GIF Home page: Anne Canale Stalnecker

Arr.GIF Design project: Facilitating Effective Online Discourse

These pages contain the background activities and supporting documentation that I have been conducting throughout the development of my Design Project. This is a work in progress...


Facilitating Effective Online Discourse

  • A professional development course for instructors on creating and fostering the discourse that takes place in the online learning community, focusing on asynchronous courses for college instructors.
  • I will be expanding on an existing course created by Barbara Easton, Learning Communities in the Classroom (2008) [1], and extending the focus of the learning community to the online environment in higher education, particularly the discussion activities.
  • Topics to be addressed:
    • Design issues: what does the instructor/instructional designer need to consider?
    • Best practices
    • Collaborative nature of learning online
    • Group work and teams
    • Computer supported collaborative learning
    • Technology tools and trends


1. Instructional problem: The need for professional development programs for online instructors who may not have the knowledge, information or skills on how to facilitate effective online discourse, which is a critical component to the online learning community.

2. The nature of what is to be learned: Instructors will learn how to effectively facilitate online discourse.

3. About the learners: Workshop participants are college-level instructors with at least a master’s degree and a minimum of five years of teaching experience. They come from a variety of disciplines, and many have experience teaching online from minimal (first time teaching), to significant (has taught at least once online prior to the workshop). They are all experienced users of the college’s learning management system Angel Learning System, thus, this platform will be used for portions of this lesson. The participants have started the design process of constructing their online courses, and have voluntarily registered for this professional development lesson. The participants are both intrinsically and externally motivated and will be engaged participants.

4. Instructional content: Each unit will be designed in a similar fashion. Units begin with an overview of that unit's learning objectives (target outcomes), followed by an overview of the topic in the form of a text based lecture or a video-lecture using multimedia tools. The units will have several activities, most based on discussions that will occur within the Angel LS discussion forum. The participants will be posting and responding to discussions with their colleagues, modeling the same style of discussion that will take place in their own courses. Units will also contain relevant scholarly articles or web resources on topics. Each unit ends with a reflective journal assignment. Upon completion of all units, participants will complete an online survey for the purposes of collecting data on the quality and effectiveness of this lesson.

The instructional content of this lesson will also include the use of MediaWiki for access to the course, Google presentation software (viewing the presentation), HotPotatoes software for quizzes on concept mastery and Survey Monkey for feedback information on effectiveness of the course.

The lesson has been designed based on constructivism with the focus on learner-centered activities, experiential learning theory, situated learning, learning as a social process whereby the learner constructs new concepts based on current knowledge. Activities are designed around authentic tasks, and modeling concepts.

5. Explore instructional problem/solution:


6. Generate goals:




As a result of participating in this workshop, instructors will gain an understanding of the learning community and how to facilitate the discourse that is integral to the online community, resulting in the ability to apply the knowledge attained to their own course.


Upon completion of this course, participants will be able to:

  • understand the learning community in the online environment and how the discussions contribute to the community of learning
  • understand the instructor's role in creating and fostering effective dialogue
  • practical application and strategies to create effective online discussion activities
  • choose appropriate educational technologies to enhance the discussions


Essential prerequisites:

  • Understanding of concepts, procedures and principles related to:
    • online teaching
    • learning management systems
    • Component skills: computer proficiency, ability to navigate a learning management system (Angel), ability to use Angel functions (creating and posting in discussion forums), use of other educational technologies (to be determined).

Supporting prerequisites:

  • Willingness to learn
  • Attending to new material that relates to one's previous experiences
  • Attitude, instrinsically motivated, affective entry characteristics.


Click here to view my instructional curriculum map (pdf file): File:RevisedCM.pdf. Note: You'll be taken to a new page--be sure to click on the title of the file "RevisedCM.pdf" to open it.


Unit 1: The Learning Community and Online Discourse

Target objectives:

Upon completion of this unit, participants will:

1. understand the learning community and how online discussion builds the community of learning; and

2. understand the instructor's role in facilitating effective online discourse.


  • Two Discussion Activities
  • E-lecture
  • Reflection Activity
  • Join Discussion Forum

Unit 2: Constructing Online Discussion Activities

Target objectives:

Participants will...

1. understand design principles, strategies, and best practices to consider in the development of discussion activities;

2. demonstrate how to encourage interaction in your course; and

3. review tools and technologies used in distance learning for the purposes of creating discussion activities.


  • Two Group Activities
  • E-lecture
  • Reflection Activity

Unit 3: Assessment and Evaluation

Target objectives

Participants will:

1. Understand assessment of online discussion activities.

2. Conduct peer reviews of assessment tools.


  • Create a rubric
  • Peer review of rubrics
  • E-lecture
  • Reflection Activity
  • Provide feedback to workshop facilitator

References and Resources

Visit this page for a list of references and resources used in developing my Design Project: References and Resources

Arr.GIF Facilitating Effective Online Discourse Home Page

Arr.GIF Unit 1: The Learning Community and Online Discussions

Arr.GIF Unit 2: Constructing Online Discussion Activities

Arr.GIF Unit 3: Assessment and Evaluation

Arr.GIF References and Resources