Two Workshops on Using Online Discussions

We were please to have as a guest to Maricopa on Januarry 27, Alice Bedard-Vorhees, from the Colorado Community Colleges Online. Alice is an experience online teacher, and was the recipient of the first Cross-Papers Fellowship from the League of Innovation in the Community College and K. Patricia Cross. She is an expert on engaging students in online activities, and shared her work that was part of Cross Paper 8: Increasing Engagement for Online and Face-to-Face Learners through Online Discussion Practice.

So we had her do a morning workshop for our faculty as an over view of the techniques in Cross Paper 8. We don;t yet have a copy of her presentation online, but have posted a 60 minute recorded audio [13.5 Mb MP3]:


After this introduction, the participants went to tables according to the techniques they were most interested in discussion or sharing ideas about. They had about half an hour to work through a series of questions, and then reported out from their sessions. There were some great ideas discussed for all 12 or so techniques– again, we managed to grab the audio of these report outs:


The participants mostly were in favor of having an online discussion board where they could further share their ideas on these practices. So we made one for them.

In the afternoon, Alice led a different, though related workshop, on Bringing Guests to your Courses with a Virtual Speaker Bureau. This was an idea Alice pioneered at CCCOnline that is wonderfully simple to create and effective– The CCCOnline Speakers Bureau listed faculty who were willing to share their expertise by being a remote “guest discussant” in a class discussion board. This is a great way to bring in outside expertise to any class, online or in the classroom. We’ve done a few of these with our Ocotillo programs, three times last year.

It was such a great idea, that it has become a part of MERLOT, so that anyone who creates an account on MERLOT, can elect to be part of the MERLOT Virtual Speakers Bureau. It is as simple as being a match maker by linking people with expertise who are willing to be a discussion board guest.

For our workshop, Alice gave a brief 30 minute overview of the concept — a PDF version of her presentation is available as well as the audio:


The bulk of the time was spent in a computer lab actually engaging in a guest discussant type event, as Alice arranged to have two colleagues, on in Colorado and one in California, be logged into a discussion board. We had 30 some of our own participants engaged in conversations between them and our guests. It was somewhat odd, like a semi-synchronous event using asynchronous software. I was pleased the discussion boards did not bog down. The board is open for reading:

We are hoping to seed the idea of how to set up this activity, and also see if we can seed interest in creating our own Maricopa Virtual Speakers Bureau– as we have so much internal expertise we really ought to leverage. And technically, we have a simple way to set it up via the Maricopa Learning eXchange.

It was a nice double decker event day, and our big thanks to Alice for doing two workshops, It was a pleasure to meet her face to face after having all the online communication, and we hoped she enjoyed a brief visit to Phoenix.

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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. Hi Alan,

    We’d love to have you drop by this weekend and talk about all this on edtechtalk if you’ve got time. Drop me an email or skype me if you’re interested… skype – coarsesalt.
    cheers, dave.

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