muffin1.jpgWhen I was in university I worked at Starbucks, and I would have these types of conversations with people:
Customer: “I would like a blueberry muffin.”
Me: “I’m sorry, but we seem to have sold out of those today.”
Customer: “But I really wanted a blueberry muffin.”
Me: “I’m sorry. There just aren’t any left. Would you like a different kind of muffin?”
Customer: “I drove over here just to get a blueberry muffin.”  At this point, I found the best thing to do was to say nothing and just look at them. Their mind was on a loop tape and there was really nothing I could do (unless I wanted to be fired) until it moved on.

People that don’t understand e-learning have a default comment that recirculates on this same loop in their minds. They are quick to say things like “but there’s no relationships or community” in e-learning. And they say it over, and over, and over. They even say it after stimulating conversation. I wonder at what point do we just need to keep creating what we think are stimulating online communities, and stop having these conversations with people?

I’ve tried to turn conversations like this into a motivator, and try new strategies for creating an even better online community than I already have.

Here’s a new strategy, which I’ve taken from an article from Cuthbertson and Falcone, called “Elevating Engagement and Community in Online Courses,” where they write that it’s important to “give responsibilities to individuals or groups for discussion threads…”

In my 4U English class when we do discussion postings, I assign different students to moderate them each week. They need to log in, read their classmates’ posts, and provide insights and feedback. They also need to pose new questions and thoughts for their classmates to respond to. They can post videos or related pieces of text to help scaffold the discussion. What I’m trying to do is prepare them for university seminars, where often the professor or T.A. will assign different students to present or lead discussion each week. It teaches them how to give constructive feedback, but also to be open-minded about how other people view the material. It also creates a community similar to Facebook (which they all love). They login, see what their friends post, and post their own comments, videos, and have interactions.

It’s no blueberry muffin, mind you, but it’s a start.