I did this with a group who are studying on our L2 Pre-Access Diploma in Progression, a new course which we are piloting aimed at students who were diagnosed as requiring a foundation year prior to studying @ L3. We had been working on planning and drafting a piece of creative writing and this was pretty much complete with some excellent work from the students. Definitely not for the faint-hearted as their stories range from civil war in East Timor, to experiencing the Rwandan genocide as a child - but well-written & so, so compelling.
Using the Moodle Forums
So the writing was finished & I was wondering what we could do with it as the students had put so much into it. I had used Moodle forums before for online discussion but not for showcasing student work & peer commentary and I thought this might be a good opportunity.
The first thing I did, before the class was to set up a forum on Moodle entitled "My Story" with very clear instructions / prompts for students. My experience of using Moodle forums before has been that starting them off in class makes it more likely that they will access it outside the classroom.
In class, students clicked on 'reply' and then copied & pasted their stories into the reply. So we ended up with a linear collection of threads - each one containing a story.
The instructions then asked students to read and comment on at least 2 other stories & ask at least 2 questions. I became involved at this point, asking questions of the first students to post, just to get the ball rolling. Once learners had commented on at least 2 other posts & asked a couple of questions, the idea was that they went back to their own post and replied to the questions other students had posted. I had already posted a few comments and questions just in case any student hadn't had their story visited. So the forum threads which started off looking very linear began to look a bit more like a spider's web with comments & questions sprouting out of each thread & linking the stories together.
This final part didn't really happen in as much detail as I would have liked as we ran out of time, but I have encouraged students to do it at home and we will revisit for at least a hour in class next week so they can become more comfortable & confident using the forums, and also so they gain practice of sensitively giving peer feedback and of forming and asking perceptive questions.
Once students do get more familiar with this practice, I will use it again. It is simple to set up, students enjoyed it, they were able to work collaboratively & get ideas from the questions posted by their peers and the Moodle threads can be used as evidence for the External Verifier (EV) of working together etc. Also, I think if they get into the habit of adding to forum posts outside the class they will become more involved in the course in general and also create a strong group dynamic. Other advantages would include being able to access from home if learners are unwell - not just accessing the materials & handouts, but also actually joining in class discussion & interacting with their peers. It also makes their Moodle site feel 'alive' rather than just being a repository for handouts & power points.
Even though this is a mature group of learners without any 'trouble-makers', we still had a group discussion at the very beginning about the importance of respecting each other's work, of constructive, positive criticism & I think this is crucial with this sort of activity. "Think before you post!", being very much the motto!
I'm looking forward to continuing it next week & hopefully when we return to it I will remember to allocate more class time to it!