Take your group discussions beyond the classroom with Ontario’s VLE

  • 4 Min Read

Keep the conversation flowing using the Discussion Board tool

Effective communication is the key to a well-run classroom. But engaging students in a face-to-face group discussion can be challenging at times. Students may talk over each other, introverted students may avoid participation, or you may simply run out of time and need to continue the discussion later. The Discussion Board tool in Ontario’s Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) can take your group discussions from your physical classroom to the virtual one, effectively keeping the conversation flowing.

Using the Discussion Board Tool in Your Blended Learning Classroom

Educators can use Ontario’s VLE to build discussion boards around a specific lecture, theme, or topic. Discussions can be held, reviewed, responded to, and kept for future reference by students and teachers. Students can then take their class discussions and extend them to online discussions.

A skilled educator knows how to create a class that is interactive and engaging. With Ontario’s VLE, educators can upload class materials and share them instantly with their class. Students can then use the Discussion Board tool to respond in real time to course content or questions from their teacher, or take part in peer-to-peer discussions. Enhance teaching and learning with choice, freedom, and flexibility by combining the benefits of both online and face-to-face delivery by using discussion boards in your blended learning classroom.

Ontario Educator Weighs In on the Discussion Board Tool

“The Discussion tool [from Brightspace in the VLE] offers my students the ability to have full tilt online discussions,” says Carly LeBlanc, a teacher with the District School Board of Niagara. “The positive impact of these discussions includes student accountability, the opportunity for peer feedback, and offering a ‘louder’ voice for students who tend to shy away in class discussions or need extra ‘wait time’ before responding. I love that everything can be done in one environment, including the ability to incorporate additional widgets to support the topics and interests of the students.”

The VLE Is an Integral Part of “For the Love of Reading Book Club”

The dynamic duo of Judy Eaton (Student Achievement Consultant for Elementary) and Betty Hicks (Secondary Learning Partner – Literacy Support) created Hamilton Wentworth Catholic District School Board’s (HWCDSB) first grade 8 and 9 book club (with students attending two separate schools) – using the VLE. Book themes include survival, overcoming obstacles, journey/growing up, and friends and relationships. There were five titles per theme, allowing students to pick books and themes they were interested in. Judy and Betty used the VLE to create a space on the homepage for pictures of the book covers (which linked to the discussion on each book), and a reading schedule was established to keep everyone on track.

Image of HWCDSB book club set up in Ontario's VLE
Image of HWCDSB book club set up in Ontario’s VLE

They used the discussion board to link each book to the appropriate discussion and posted weekly videos using the announcements feature to help the students start the discussion around the weekly topic. Students would log in and join the discussion around the topic. Over the six-week period, topics were discussed by students both face-to-face and through the VLE’s discussion board. An example of a prompt that was used was “Think of the major conflicts within your novel and focus on one of those conflicts. What advice would you give the character on how to handle the conflict?” To help keep the conversations flowing, Judy and Betty advised students to stick to “one thought, one question, one response.”

Image of HWCDSB discussion board for their book club
Image of HWCDSB discussion board for their book club

Feedback on the book club has been positive from both students and faculty. Students enjoyed the assignment and want to meet each other in person. Judy and Betty presented the project to librarians as well as grade 8 teachers, who liked the project and were interested in trying it with their classes.

Ontario Educators Have Access to the VLE

Want to take your discussions beyond the classroom? Did you know that all K-12 public school teachers in Ontario have free access to Brightspace as part of a provincial Virtual Learning Environment (VLE)? To get Brightspace for your classroom, reach out to your Technology Enabled Learning and Teaching (TELT) contact or email K12ONT@D2L.com.

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