Moderating Discussions

Discussion Resource: (Horton, W., Designing for the Virtual Classroom, E-Learning by Design). Copyright 2006 John Wiley & Sons Inc. Used with permission from John Wiley & Sons Inc. via the Copyright Clearance Center.

Chapter 9, “Design for the Virtual Classroom” (pp. 463-471)


        In “Design for the Virtual Classroom”, Horton notes that “Good discussions do not just happen. They are designed and crafted to provoke deep thought and continual improvement of ideas and opinions” (2006, p. 464). Sometimes instructors design the discussions themselves, and other times they are already build into the course. However, good instructors understand how to moderate in such a way that engages students and challenges them to deeper thinking.

        This week’s resources explain characteristics of a good moderator. Read through Horton’s characteristics and suggestions for good moderators. Think of two examples from your own experience, one good and one bad, of an instructor/moderator you have encountered. Explain what you would have done the same or differently in each situation.

Initial Post

1-Below Standard



4- Exceptional


Post not based on the resource. Lacks focus and strays from the topic.

Post loosely focused on resources. Loses focus at times throughout the post.

Post based on resources presented. Clear main idea. Maintains focus throughout.

Post based on resources with other resources cited to support ideas presented in required resources. Post is extremely well organized and maintains focus. Thoughtful conclusion.


No analysis or low quality analysis of material. Lacks understanding of resources.

Post shows shallow understanding of resources.

Shows adequate understanding of resources.

Shows deeper level of thinking. Applies ideas in resources to outside examples. Ties ideas together well.


Incomplete sentences with more than 6 grammatical errors.

Simple language and sentence structure. 5-6 grammatical errors.

Well-developed sentences. Less than 4 grammatical errors.

Well-developed sentences using grade appropriate vocabulary. Less than 3 grammatical errors.


Quotes not cited or incorrectly cited. No Works Cited page.

At least one quote used and correctly cited. Uses APA style with minimal errors.

At least 2 quotes cited correctly. Uses APA style with no errors. Works Cited included.

At least one additional resource presented. Post includes correctly cited quotes, APA style, with Works Cited page.

Response to Peers

No response to peers or negative or inappropriate responses.

Responds to at least one other post. Provides minimal feedback. Comments may stray from the topic at times. Response may be late.

Responds to at least two peers. Provides focused and thoughtful feedback. Provides examples from personal experience.

Shows respect for others and leadership in discussion. Provides encouraging and constructive feedback. Challenges deeper thinking in others. Provides outside resources and examples.










Preventing Plagiarism

What plagiarism detection software is available to online instructors?


            Though Dr. Palloff states that there probably isn’t much difference in percentage of cheating or plagiarism online versus the traditional classroom, I do think it’s something that we as instructors have to be consciously aware of. Chao, Wilhelm, and Neureuther note that most plagiarism occurs because students “have underdeveloped paraphrasing skills and they may not know when and how to acknowledge secondary research in their writing” (2009, p. 32). In this their study, students in experimental groups received instructor led training, exercises, and were given resources to help them understand what constitutes plagiarism and how to avoid it. Chao, Wilhelm, and Neureuther also found that many students became confused when they looked at different citation styles (2009, p. 33). When they were given resources like Purdue OWL, students were more likely to cite correctly. Students were also shown examples from TurnItIn, an online plagiarism detection software, and asked to use this resource. After the education and resources were given to students, they did find a reduction in plagiarism when compared to their control group.

            There are so many resources like TurnItIn available to instructors. Matt Petronzio (2012) gives a great list of resources on that includes TurnItIn,, and many others. I think that programs that require students submit their own work are the best option. I think that the act of loading their own papers makes students consciously consider whether or not they plagiarized. Just having the threat a possibility of a teacher checking is not as effective as being sure your work is going to be checked every time.


How can the design of assessments help prevent academic dishonesty?


            I think instructors have to think a little deeper when designing assessments to prevent dishonesty. In our video, Dr. Palloff suggests asking students to take a step further and apply the knowledge they have learned. This way, they aren’t just spewing information from sources, they are thinking about what they have learned and using it in a separate situation. I also think assignments where students record themselves (voice or video) also help with dishonesty. They can’t hide behind the online curtain, and I would imagine that they are more likely to present original work. Discussions are also great, especially when they request that information learned be applied to personal experiences. Projects


What facilitation strategies do you propose to use as a current or future online instructor?

            Education and resources concerning plagiarism are the route I would take. I think that having a module at the beginning of a course to help students understand common mistakes is the best way to avoid these mistakes. I do agree with Chao, Wilhelm, and Neureuther that many students really don’t understand what constitutes plagiarism. In fact, I found this to be the case the first time I assigned an online research project to sixth graders. I so wish I had given a few lessons on paraphrasing and proper citation before I had assigned the project. Many of my students were shocked to have their projects returned. Even some parents seemed unaware that what their students had done was wrong, even the ones whose students had not written anything at all in their own words. I also plan to demonstrate for students the online plagiarism detector I will use and to explain to them that their work will be returned for a rewrite if I find that they have plagiarized. Students do not like having to do their work over, so I think this would work well as a deterrent.


What additional considerations for online teaching should be made to help detect or prevent cheating and plagiarism?


            I think it’s really important for students to see proper paraphrasing and citation from their teachers. Whenever I am teaching a lesson, I make sure I cite sources in my presentations. I always draw my students’ attention to the resources at the end, making sure they understand why I included these sources, why I deem them reliable, and how I cited them in my presentation. I also think it is important to help students understand how hard people work to have their writing published in academic journals. Often, students don’t see it as a big deal. They’re just words to them unless they understand their value to the researchers, authors, and academic community.




Chao, C., Wilhelm, W., & Neureuther, B. (2009). A study of electronic detection and pedagogical approaches for reducing plagiarism. Delta Pi Epsilon Journal, 51(1), 31-42.
Retrieved from the Walden Library using the Education Research Complete database

 OWL Purdue University Online Writing Lab. Retrieved from:

 Palloff, R., Pratt, K. (n.d.) Plagiarism and Cheating. Lecture presented for Laureate Education, Inc. Retrieved from

Petronzio, M. (2012) Use These 10 Sites to Detect Plagiarism. Retrieved from:

Usability of Technology

When used correctly, technology can be a wonderful platform for learning in an online environment and a great addition to face-to-face environments. When technology is not implemented well or users don’t understand how to use it, it can become a hindrance to learning.

When implementing technology, Boettcher and Conrad (2010) suggest that instructors “just pick one to three that are best suited for your learning goals and discipline” (p. 58). In addition to limiting the number of technologies use, instructors should also take learner characteristics into consideration when choosing which technologies to select.

Cooper and Colwell (2007) speak to instructors to consider disabilities when looking at usability and accessibility. Usability and accessibility to technology are very important, and I think that many instructional designers are unaware of many disabilities and how simple it is to make modifications to design so that technologies are more accessible. I was just in a training for a new online school program that has been made available to my students. When I asked how to turn on the closed captioning for the tutorial, I was told that there isn’t any closed captioning. That’s going to be a problem for a few of my students, and it is such a simple consideration that the program designers overlooked. Technology has to be usable for all members of the class in order for students to collaborate.

Since many of my students have disabilities, I am prefer technologies that have built-in accommodations. One of the best programs I have ever used is Study Island ( There are so many features that helped my students. Students can highlight text (difficult words or full paragraphs) to be read to them, they can use different colored highlighters to mark important information in text, and teachers can have the program generate three answers for multiple choice questions rather than four. There are also many additional practice features that students receive remediation on subjects where they struggle. Though this program can be a bit difficult to navigate on the teacher/administrator side, it is incredibly easy to navigate from the student/parent side. In addition, they offer “how to” videos on pretty much every feature and a great support team. These are the kinds of technologies that I love to use. When designers have thought of virtually everything, it is a dream come true for the instructor. Usability and accessibility to needed tools is equally important for the instructor.


Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Cooper, M., Colwell, C., & Jelfs, A. (2007). Embedding accessibility and usability: Considerations for e-learning research and development projects. ALT-J: Research in Learning Technology, 15(3), 231-245.
Retrieved from the Walden Library using the Education Research Complete database.


Understanding Technology

What is the significance of knowing the technology available to you?

                It’s important to understand the technology available to you, because there may be some benefits of using one technology over another. For online courses specifically, it is important to have a firm grasp on the technology as “to avoid unnecessary frustration” (Conrad & Donaldson, 2011, p. 38). Knowing how to use the technology enhances student communication and ability to gain maximum understanding. The course site or online classroom “is the ‘physical space’ for the online classroom” where “the instructor and students gather, share thinking, ideas, and complete the course requirements” (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010, p. 65). Students have to be able to utilize the technology tools in order to fully participate in this community of learners.


Why is it essential to communicate clear expectations to learners?


                It’s important to communicate clear expectations so that learners are aware of what is required to pass a course. Boettcher and Conrad (2010) also state that “clear and unambiguous guidelines about what is expected of learners and what they should expect from an instructor make a significant contribution to ensuring understanding and satisfaction in an online course” (p. 55). It is also important in helping “create a smooth and trusting learning environment” (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010, p. 55). Clear expectations let a student know how much time and study they need to devote to a course, and in some cases, may let the learner know whether or not they will be able to manage the course material.



What additional considerations should the instructor take into account when setting up an online learning experience?


                Throughout my teaching career, I have frequently asked my students to complete learning styles surveys at the beginning of a class or course. Conrad and Donaldson (2011) note that an instructor should consider the “individual learning style of the student and his or her comfort with the online environment” (p. 30). Some learning styles may need more support or variety in the online environment than others. In addition to learning styles, the instructor should consider the students’ previous experiences with technology. Even tech savvy students may not be comfortable with new course tools and need practice to be able to use them.



Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Conrad, R., & Donaldson, J.  A. (2011). Engaging the online learner: Activities and resources for creative instruction (Updated ed). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.



Motivating Students and Sustaining Online Learning Communities

I have been a part of several different types of online learning environments. As a student, I experiences both mixed method environments and fully asynchronous environments. As a teacher, I have been part of a mixed environment where students even had limited face-to-face contact with teachers and other students. What I learned was that it takes motivation on the student’s part to fully build an online community. What it takes on the teacher’s part is understanding the student to know how to elicit that motivation and also to understand what level of motivation is critical for the student to be successful based on the learning environment. Conrad and Donaldson state that “designing and utilizing activities that are appropriate for the various engagement phases of specific learners can promote confidence and success” (2011, p. 11). They also note that “Engaged learning does not simply happen. It requires ‘architectural engineering’ by the instructor” (Conrad & Donaldson, 2011, p. 14). There are many elements on the part of both the instructional designer and the instructor that go into planning for student success.

My first experience with an online course was my teacher certification. It was considered “distance learning” but it essentially was an online experience (for the most part). Though I did have some conference call interaction with my peers and even a few face-to-face orientations, I didn’t feel at all connected to my classmates. My learning community was me, my professor, and fellow teachers at the school where I taught. Though my courses were partly synchronous, I didn’t feel that I was connecting ideas with my classmates.

Here at Walden, the program has been completely asynchronous. The interactions between students are limited to discussion boards and occasional emails (or at least this has been my experience). However, I have had many quality interactions with my professors and fellow students through discussion groups. At times though, I have sometimes felt disconnected on a personal level. Surprisingly, merely having the option of our pictures next to our discussion posts and the use of blogs has helped me feel a little more connected. Sometimes, in a professional setting, the formality causes us to “lose face” and we forget there is a real person on the other end of that discussion post. I think this very minor change to the Walden layout simple but very smart. I also love that there are short videos in each module. This helps me feel connected to a professor, even if it is not necessarily my course instructor. In an asynchronous setting the designers/instructors have to find ways to create those connections so that the students are truly experiencing a meeting of the minds.

As an online teacher, I found that live interactions through phone, online virtual classroom, and through online conferences was absolutely necessary for the majority of students and families. Occasionally, we would have a tech savvy family who took the mostly asynchronous option, but for the most part, those personal connections could be directly related to how the student was performing academically, how happy the families were with the program, and how likely they were to stay at our school.

So, what can I gather from all of these experiences? I think the essential elements come down to reaching out. This can be classified as Analysis in the ADDIE process. Whether it is formal or informal, you have to figure out what you are up against, both as a teacher and as a student. Online students have to analyze their professor, their fellow students, and what is expected of them as far as course work. Online teachers have to analyze student demographics and then behavior to determine what level of motivation and support that student needs. Then it takes a great deal of planning and development, before, during, and after a given course. As online instructors now seem to be taking a secondary role, working within a preset curriculum and online school system, instructors are not as involved with designing the instruction their students receive. Instructors have to be more interactive, actively seeking out those less engaged students. Likewise, students have to be more engaged in pursuing their education. If they can’t figure something out on their own, they have to be persistent in finding the right person to help them. Asynchronous education is not for every student. However, as technology and learning theories develop, we may find way to make it more accessible and pleasing to a larger body of people.

This goes back to Conrad and Donaldson’s comments on “engineering learning”.  I think the focus of asynchronous instruction is constant feedback or evaluation. The engineers of the curriculum may not be the instructors at all. Instructors, students, support faculty, and curriculum designers all have to work together to adjust and change the courses to meet the ever changing needs of our constructivist lean towards education, specifically online learning. Our learning has become so much more independent, but what we can’t forget that we need each other so that our ideas can connect and build into something greater. Often, those connections and ideas are what inspire and motivate us to greater things and a desire for continued learning.



Conrad, R., & Donaldson, J. A. (2011). Engaging the online learner: Activities and resources for creative instruction (Updated ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Morrison, G., Ross, S., Kalman, H., Kemp, J. (2011) Designing Effective Instruction (6th Ed) Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.


Resources for Estimating Costs and Time

It’s sometimes difficult for new project managers to know where to start when learning to estimate cost, effort, and duration of time of tasks associated with projects. There are many resources out there, and I found a few that were very helpful.

Markgraf, B. (2013) Six Methods for the Estimation of Activity Duration in Project Management Retrieved from:

1-      Work Breakdown- Reduce the activity into smaller tasks that individuals perform to more accurately reflect time.

2-      Historical- Use historical data on the same activities

3-      Analogy- Use similar activities carried out in the same company or even by different companies to create a reliable estimate of the duration of the project.

4-      Expert Judgment- This article stated that estimating duration of large or very new projects can be difficult and urged hiring an outside specialist if needed.

5-      Effort- This article mentioned that time needed to be allowed for obtaining materials and then added to labor time.

6-      Unit- PM will need to calculate the duration needed to create certain units, but will need to be careful that units do not change from company to company (or country to country).

Westland, J. (2011, June 23) Project Management: 4 Ways to Manage Your Budget [Weblog] Retrieved from:

                I really liked this blog because it highlighted the importance of continuing to revisit the budget throughout the project. We have been talking a lot about planning and calculating costs, but this article brought up a really good point in saying:

“A 10 percent budget overrun is far easier to correct than a 50 percent overrun. Your chances of keeping the project on track with frequent review of the budget plan is far greater than if you forecast it once and forget about it.” (Westland, 2011)

This article also talks about revisiting resources and how they are being used, communicating with the team, and managing scope. I thought it really brought the budget into perspective for me. I think it is easy to project what you think you might spend, but with separate departments, many people working on many parts of a project, I could see where it might get out of hand very quickly. I liked that Westland pointed out ways to keep this under control.

                I love this entire website! Under the project management tab on the left, you can find articles and tools for just about everything you might want. I found an article that explains how to use Gantt charts, which was really useful. There were also several articles on time management, estimating time and duration, understanding and controlling costs, and even several articles on stress management. There were tons of free tools and resources. This one is definitely worth a look!