Improving in-class discussion using Moodle Tools: Part 2

Focusing on the principles of priming, integrating and reinforcing, this two part series introduces low threshold applications of Moodle™ and Joule, taking your in-class discussions from ghost town to boomtown. In last week’s post, Improving In-class Discussion using Moodle Tools – Part 1, we looked at techniques for priming students with Moodle™ tools. This week, I’ll spotlight ways in which some of those same tools can be used to encourage active involvement through integration and reinforcement. Integrating:

  • When exploring priming techniques we talked about using reading responses, submitted through the Assignment module, to help students prepare for class. You can also use these assignments as a way to initiate in-class conversations by introducing student responses into the discussion yourself. Consider this example:

You: Jerome, you had an interesting reaction to chapter sixteen. Will you elaborate on that for everyone?Jerome: ResponseYou: Maggie, Jerome’s take was quite different than yours. How would you respond to his view?Maggie: Response

  • If need be, you can continue to pull other students in to the discussion based on their submissions, by asking whether or not they agree with what has just been said or by asking someone to provide an example to support or contradict the point made. Voilíæ, instant discussion!
  • When a student asks a good question or makes a good point through the Messages block, share it with everyone during class. This public recognition encourages students to speak up in class. As an added bonus, it reinforces that the Messages block is a legitimate way to get in touch with you and can encourage students to ask you questions that they might not feel are worth the trouble of an office visit.
  • By having students participate in a Forum before the face-to-face class session, they will exchange much of the top-level discussion prior to class, leading to a deeper level of discussion during class. Not only can this help you cover more content, but often, these discussions are more engaging, drawing an increased number of students in to the conversation.
  • Pedagogically speaking, using a simple polling tool, like Choice, encourages learners to think about their existing knowledge on, and understanding of, a given topic. This has two benefits. First, it forces participants to engage with their choice and think about the context and consequences of it. Secondly, this tools allows teachers (and students if you choose) to gain a better understanding of current student views and knowledge as they relate to the discussion topic.


  • Students have busy lives. They work, carry heavy class loads and are involved in extracurricular activities, and sometimes they’re parents too. With fragmented schedules, even those students with the best of intentions may shelve thoughts relating to our course content when they walk out the door at the end of class. Technology creates continuity between class meetings and can leave students feeling more prepared for engagement. Consider using the News forum to send reminders that highlight upcoming discussion points. This allows students to prepare mentally for the upcoming conversation by focusing on key points.
  • The Quiz module can stimulate in-class discussion by reinforcing student understanding of the material. Again, it makes sense that the more a student knows about a subject, the more likely they are to share that knowledge with the rest of the class. To accomplish this, consider setting the quiz to show correct answers after a student has submitted their response. Knowing what they know about a subject inspires confidence that can encourage even shy students to seek out participation opportunities.

As I said last week, learning is not a spectator sport. Consider your classroom, your students and your teaching style when incorporating ideas into your teacher toolkit. Remember, technology is a tool, use it to build up your in-class discussion. Then hang on and enjoy the ride. Happy Moodling! ~Tara



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