Student Engagement Idea: Upvote/Downvote Questions In Discussions

Way back at the beginning of time, I worked in Language Studies with a professor, Gerry Dion. Gerry was (and is) a great guy, and frankly, about ten years ahead of his time. In my first semester working with Gerry, my job was to maintain computers in a small lab, and help students use the First Class communication system, which was a really good system to use for class collaboration and instructor flexibility. Gerry taught “French, in a Canadian Context” (course code was LL636, which is part of the minutia that I carry around in my head). Anyways, this course was a flipped class with course materials on a CD-Rom. The first six weeks were French language basics, the second six weeks were cultural research. Students grouped up, did research, and then posted to First Class their essays. Everyone in the class would read each other’s essay. Then there was a multiple choice final exam that consisted of questions pulled from the essays.

I’m on a bit of a nostalgia kick lately, and well, I was thinking about this sort of activity, except within a modern LMS context. Here’s how a similar exercise using the discussion forums in D2L’s version 10.3 might work:

First, have students read each other’s work. Typically these are submitted to the discussion forum, for posting – but a group dropbox (with the entire class enrolled in one group) might work as well. Second, have a forum for each essay, and students are to generate x number of questions (and potential answers) each, and post to the appropriate forums the questions. This part of the exercise ensures that they at least read some of the work submitted. Third, have students use the upvote feature (new in version 10.3) to vote up or down the question – voting up the questions means you could answer the question, voting down means you (as a student) couldn’t answer it correctly. Students essentially identify easier questions on a fairly large scale.  Fourth, to assess activity in the system you could use the reporting feature attached to discussions to export a list of activity to CSV, manipulate that CSV to be a grades import (aligned with previously created columns). Fifth, using the upvote data, select questions that did well, and did not do well and create a quiz out of those – you could even take it a step further and allow the system to randomly select questions (once imported into the Question Library) from each difficulty of question.

Going back to my history lesson at the top, Gerry was not an easy marker, but almost always did well on his student feedback – students learned from those sorts of exercises.

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