Good uses for bulletin boards and chat rooms
The course bulletin board provides an opportunity to have discussions
between the instructor and the students and just among the students of
this course. Anyone can either start a new topic or reply/add to existing
discussions. The board is organized by "threads" or discussion topics.
When you access the BB you see the list of current topics (threads).
Or you may see nothing, if the BB has not been used. I recommend that the
instructor puts up at least some welcome message with some general instruction
about how to use the BB. When you post, make sure that you see the "smiley
face" at the end telling you that your message has indeed been posted.
be reminded of this. You may have to hit the reload" button before you
see your posting appear! Click on a topic you are interested in to see
details about the contributions (replies) to this topic. You can then selectively
read these replies, add another, or just move on -- and start a new one.
As the instructor, you can remove any discussion "thread" from the board
by going to "page function" and the appropriate button on this page. This
is a useful feature, if a student should abuse the BB, say by posting a
hate message. I think a good pedagogical use is for the instructor to start
a discussion topic and have the students reply. Maybe even with a little
incentive, like a homework assignment. Check the BBs for Sharon Sassler's
courses (SOC201 or SOC311) as an example; fairly lively there from venting
anger over computer labs to a discussion over whether or not marriage is
a business merger (a class on sociology of the family).
Course chat rooms. While BB postings are "permanent" (till the
instructor erases them) and used "asynchronously", chat is "synchronous"
live action, whatever is posted is not stored but available only to people
currently connected to the chat room. I see two main uses:
For a distance learning course, students and instructor can meet
in this virtual space with participants scattered all over the five boroughs
(or the world).
For traditional classes, as a way for groups of students to meet
to say work on a common project. So, rather than meeting Saturday afternoon
at 3pm in the library, they could agree to meet in the chat room without
the need of having to travel to Hunter. For language classes it is a great
way to practice language skills just chatting with friends (in the
same class) about anything, like the Grammy awards. However, some advance
arrangement is necessary. Since students in a class are small in number,
chances are that you end up all by yourself in the chartroom -- if you
don't make arrangements to meet. This is the big difference to public chat
rooms, where you will always meet some strangers. Our course specific chat
rooms are more "private". (If you would put a password on your course,
they become really private -- but this may not be necessary.)
Keep in mind, that BBs are generated automatically for each
course, but that chat rooms are an option you may select when creating
or modifying your course page. For the chat room feature, you need a web
browser with java support (Netscape 4 under Win95 recommended); since java
support is not fully standardized and is not available at all in older
versions of web browsers, you may encounter technical problems if you use
a different environment.