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Getting learning and teaching value out of online message board discussions Penelope J. Goodman, Department of Classics

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1 Getting learning and teaching value out of online message board discussions Penelope J. Goodman, Department of Classics

2 Pedagogical benefits of online discussions Active learning Student-led learning Time-efficient for the teacher Time-flexible for the student Removes social pressures of face-to-face discussion Acts as a resource to refer back to

3 Student comment “I think this discussion board is a great way of creating more interaction between students, as you don't really get to do that in lectures and i think for most people it's kind of nerve-racking in seminars too.”

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7 Initial student views “am i the only one who finds this more than a little bit wierd?” “I agree with [Student X] that the internet posting jobbies seem a bit daunting but we will see.” “This message board thing is pretty weird, but I really like the idea so I hope it's a success. At least I'll be using the internet for something productive instead of just wasting time on Facebook!” “I think these message boards are a really good idea, I like the sound of active learning, hopefully it will keep me more interested!”

8 ‘Some ideas for the message board’ Would you have wanted to serve in the Roman army during the Augustan era? Why was it important that soldiers’ pensions were paid out of a separate aerarium militare, rather than the existing aerarium Saturni? Can you find any further examples of ways in which Augustus ensured a good relationship between himself and the army? What sort of activities would the navy be used for? Who commanded them? Read Suetonius, Augustus 24-5, which is about disciplinary measures in the Roman army under Augustus. What does it add to our understanding of how Augustus managed his relationship with the army? Or (as for every week) you can simply choose any item of reading material (primary or secondary) listed on the module bibliography under the heading for this lecture, and post with your thoughts about it. You could summarise its contents for the benefit of other students, say whether you think there are any problems with it, or point out any places where it disagrees with other evidence.

9 Thinking out loud “I have been wondering, and unable to find out, why the senate was naive enough to give Octavian provincial powers with which he could then later gain power over Rome by twisting the arm of the senate into giving him the power to his success. How did they not envisage such a move? Does anyone have any thoughts on this?” “I would like to know what others think, as I am struggling to decide whether Augustus was a shrewd poltician using all the tricks at his disposal, or a shameless exploiter of the man who arguably gave him his stepping stone into politics” “The part that I found particularly interesting, and I'm not sure that I completely understood it, was when Augustus forbade the imperial family and other relevent people to use the term 'fellow-soldier' when addressing the army. This method of referring to the army as equals had served the generals in the past well especially during the civil wars, so why did Augustus forbid it? Was he merely trying to exaggerate the fact that times had changed and that he held all the power? If this is true, would it not go against everything he was trying to say to the populace?”

10 Assessment method 10% quantitative assessment: –20 posts over 20 teaching weeks 10% qualitative assessment: –Three self-selected ‘best posts’ at end

11 Participation levels

12 A sense of developing identity as scholarly commentators “Following on from my previous discussion post for lecture 5…” “As I discussed last week…” “Building on my prior query…” “From our discussions after last week's lecture we can see…”

13 Peer scrutiny and originality “I liked the message boards but sometimes felt that they were quite intense. I often wanted to just make a quick comment but felt that would look bad since people tended to write a LOT every week.” “You can feel harsh if you criticise someone else’s work, i.e. posts, but it looks stupid when everyone agrees with each other.” “Perhaps a little more discussion midweek on message boards. There was about 20 posts every week saying the same thing, and a little nudging could help.”

14 Aiming for originality

15 Comparison between qualitative marks for message board posts and essay marks

16 Positive responses “I enjoyed having discussions.” “Encouraged extra reading.” “Such a help in understanding – great way to learn.” “Certainly helped to consolidate lectures.” “Encouraged me to keep up with the work.” “I think the message boards were very helpful as they encourage you to go over your notes previously made.” “A good way to ensure I did a little work each week rather than just cramming at the end.” “I might complain about having to post every week, but they do keep me thinking about the course all the time.” “I think they will be useful as a revision aid.”

17 Negative responses “I think 20% is too much for the message boards alone, I feel 10% would be better, but it is a very easy 20%” “It is possible to write three good threads and very little else and get a good mark.” “Maybe more weight should be awarded for content than posting.” “I felt like it was too high a mark for the module.”

18 Comparative performance


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