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Webinar Transcripts

Writing and Responding to Discussion Posts

Presented September 21, 2017

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Last updated 10/21/2017

 

Visual: The webinar begins with a PowerPoint title slide in the large central panel. A captioning pod, Q&A pod, and files pod are stacked on the right side.

The slide says “Housekeeping” and the following:

  • Recording
    • Will be available online a day or two from now.
  • Interact
    • Polls, files, and links are interactive.
  • Q&A
    • Use the Q&A box to ask questions.
    • Send to writingsupport@waldenu.edu
  • Help
    • Choose “Help” in the upper right hand corner of the webinar room.

Audio: Beth: Hello, everyone, and welcome. Thank you so much for joining us today. My name is Beth Nastachowski, and I'm just going to get us started by going over a couple of quick housekeeping notes, and then I'll be handing over the session to our presenter today Michael.

So first I want to just note that you might have noticed I've started the recording for this webinar, and I'll be posting the recording in our webinar archive probably this evening, so if you have to leave for any reason or you'd like to review it again, you're more than welcome to do so and I always like to note at this moment that we record all of our webinars in the Writing Center. So if you can't attend live you're more than welcome to find that in the webinar archive, and we also have all of our webinar recordings up there all the time. So you're looking for help on a particular topic you're welcome to take a look at that archive and find a recording that would be relevant for you.

Throughout the session today we really encourage you to interact with your fellow Walden classmates as well as Michael. I know Michael has a couple chats put together that he'll be using throughout the session. And then also note you can find the slides and the other handouts that we have for this session in the files pod. That's at the bottom right-hand corner of the screen. So feel free to download those. Maybe you want to save the slides. I know Michael has some links throughout for other resources, so feel free to do that. And note that those links that Michael has are also interactive so feel free to click the links. They will be the blue underlined sort of hyperlinked looking text, and if you hover over those and click them they will open up in a new tab in your browser so feel free to do that throughout the session. You won't leave the session or anything but then you can take a look at that web page either after the session or take a look at it while going through here.

We also have the Q&A box, and that's on the right side of the screen, and myself and my colleague Melissa will be monitoring that Q&A box throughout the session today, so feel free to submit any questions or comments throughout the webinar. Let us know how we can help, what questions we can answer, if there are other resources you're looking for you we can send you those as well. However, I always like to note if you have any questions at the very end of the webinar we do like to end on time so it's possible that at the very end we may not get to all questions or maybe you think of a question after the webinar has closed. Do be sure to e-mail us at writingsupport@waldenu.edu. We're happy to send you a response through e-mail and I will also make sure to display that address at the very end of the session as well.

All right. The final thing to note is if you do have any technical issues or questions, you can let me know in that Q&A box. I have a couple of tips and tricks I can give you, but there's also the help button in the top right corner of the webinar room. That's Adobe Connect's help option, so that's the best place to go for any significant issues. So with that, Michael, I will hand it over to you.

 

Visual: The slide changes to the following with a picture of Michael: Writing and Responding to Discussion Posts

Michael Dusek

Writing Instructor

Walden Writing Center

Audio: Michael: All right. Great. Thank you for the lovely introduction. Hello, everyone. My name is Michael Dusek. I'm a Writing Center instructor in the Writing Center here at Walden University. There's my photo looking very pensive and Midwestern in my flannel.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: After this webinar you will be able to:

  • Articulate the importance of discussion posts at Walden
  • Identify the requirements for a post from a writing prompt
  • Identify strengths and weaknesses in sample posts
  • Understand how to facilitate discussion when responding to posts

Audio: But yeah, this webinar is about writing and responding to discussion posts. After this webinar you should be able to articulate the importance of discussion posts at Walden. You'll be able to identify the requirements for a post for a writing—from a writing prompt so taking a writing prompt and gleaning what information you need from it to craft an effective discussion post. You'll be able to identify strengths and weaknesses in sample posts and also understand how to facilitate discussion when responding to discussion posts from your colleagues.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Disclaimer

  • We will discuss: Tips, methods, suggestions, and resources.
  • We won’t discuss: One right way to write a discussion post. 

Aim to develop how to best navigate, orchestrate, and realize discussion post writing for yourself.

Audio: So yeah, before we get going as a disclaimer here, we're going to be discussing some tips, some methods, suggestions, and I'm going to provide some resources for you, but it's really important to note that there really is no one way to write a discussion post. I often tell my in-person students that writing isn't like math where you have some numbers and you put it through a formula or some complicated theorem of some kind and it spits out a number at the end and that's your answer and that's the one way you can get to that answer. Writing is really—you know, there are many ways to get to effective discussion post or an effective piece of writing, so the key here is to find something that works for you, finding techniques and strategies that you identify with and that help you in your writing.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: What Are Discussion Posts?

  • “The Discussion areas offer you a means to communicate with your colleagues and the instructors for this course.” (Walden University, 2013a, “Course Assignments”).
  • “The exchange of ideas between colleagues engaged in scholarly inquiry is a key aspect of graduate-level learning, and is a requisite activity in this course”
  • (Walden University, 2013a, “Course Assignments”).

Picture of a group of people with notebooks and computers around a table

Audio: So what are discussion posts? Yeah, they're pretty different from other types of academic writing, but they also share some of the same characteristics. The discussion areas offer you a means to communicate with your colleagues and the instructors for your course. Yeah. They also facilitate the exchange of ideas between colleagues engaged in scholarly inquiry. This is a key aspect of graduate level learning and is a requisite activity in this course. The latent message here is that this is about facilitating discussion with your colleagues whereas in say a course paper your objective really is to take the research that you've been doing and present those findings to your professor, to a larger community.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Discussion Posts

  • Develop communication skills in an online environment.
  • Build critical thinking and writing skills.
  • Explore ideas and learn from your peers.
  • Provide practice for academic writing.

Conversational vs. Formal academic tone: Can depend on the course—if you’re not sure, ask your instructor!

Audio: Discussion posts are again really meant to facilitate discussion, to create a dialogue among colleagues about current course studies. Discussion posts help develop communication skills in an online environment. As Walden is an online university, it's pretty important to be able to communicate and express your ideas in an online setting. Discussion posts also help build critical thinking and writing skills. From this dialogue from the interaction with your colleagues, your ideas are hopefully being challenged or reinforced or in some way the dialogue pushes you to think critically, so that's another feature of discussion posts. Discussion posts also help you explore ideas and learn from your peers. Yeah. And provide practice for academic writing.

So you can kind of think of it as a buildup to a course paper. It has some of the same elements only in a course paper they are going to be expanded upon more than they are in a discussion post. Again this is going to be conversational versus formal academic. Now, each course is different in what they expect in terms of an academic tone within discussion posts, but in general again the key here is that you are encouraging or participating in some sort of dialogue with your colleagues around an idea that you come across in your course.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: A Note About Time

Courses are fast-paced and often contain weekly discussion assignments:

  1. an initial discussion post assignment and
  2. discussion response post assignments

What should you do?

  • Schedule deadlines
  • Develop time-saving habits.

Picture of a clock, indicating it as an icon = time saver.

Audio: A note about time. Yeah, courses are fast-paced and often contain weekly discussion assignments. This is something that we see all the time in Walden, right? Pretty much every course is going to have some sort of discussion post part to it, element to it, yeah, and often times you're going to have an initial discussion post where you're presenting your ideas or responding to a discussion prompt, and you're also going to have an element where you're responding to the ideas of others where you are again taking someone else's initial discussion post and commenting on it.

So to help you be on top of this, it's really important to schedule deadlines. For me I'll put a reminder in my phone, an alarm in my phone when something needs to be done but having something that can remind you that this is due is a good idea, and this helps to develop time-saving habits here, yeah.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: A Note About Time: Tips

  • Allow time for reading your weekly course material (required readings, optional readings)
  • Read your discussion assignment prompt first.
    • Then engage in your weekly course reading. (Let your initial discussion prompt assignment be your initial guide).

Audio: So some tips about discussion posts. First off, you want to allow time for reading from your weekly course materials. Discussion posts are going to be crafted from these weekly course materials so you need to give yourself time to read and fully understand those materials. It is helpful to read the discussion, the assignment prompt first for this discussion post. This way you can—this tailors the way you see the course readings and you can kind of focus in on the elements that your instructor wants to emphasize and is emphasizing. So reading the discussion prompt, assignment prompt first is a good idea before you sit down to actually read the course materials for that week.

 

Visual: The webinar layout changes to open a chat box for attendees to type into. The slide changes to the following: Question For You to Answer in The Chat Box

? What tips or strategies have helped you manage your time each week to write quality discussion posts? ?

Audio: So yeah, we've come to our first question in the chat box here for this webinar, and the question is, what tips and strategies have helped you manage your time each week as you write quality discussion posts? Yeah, what tips would you have for others? What strategies do you use to make sure that you are writing quality discussion posts on a weekly basis? And you can go ahead and throw your answers in the chat box.

[Silence as attendees submit responses in the chat box.]

Start early with all reading. Yeah, that goes back to giving yourself enough time to cover that course material before you start writing and before you dive into actually working with it. That's a great idea. Yeah, Jasper, eliminate distraction, right? Don't give yourself the opportunity to focus on other things. Focus on your assignment. That's a good tip as well. Judith, taking notes, annotating, yeah, that's an awesome strategy too. It gives you something to return back to as you start to write, yeah. I really like this one. Reviewing materials more than once. Yeah, this is something I harp on with my in-person students as well. You need to return to the readings a number of times sometimes to fully understand them. Yeah, that's very common.

Okay. Yeah, these are some great tips, sure. I'm going to move on for the sake of time here, but this is about finding things that work for you, reflecting on your writing process and what works for you is a pretty critical importance when you're composing discussion posts and in a scholarly or academic writing in general. So again reflecting and finding these techniques that work for you, it's really important. Thank you, guys, for your participation.

 

Visual: The webinar layout changes to close the chat box. The slide changes to the following: Writing a Discussion Post

Picture of a computer, notebook and pen, phone, and cup of coffee on a table.

Audio: So then without further ado, let's talk about writing these discussion posts.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Creating a Discussion Post Best Practice:
Pre-work

  • Carefully read the discussion prompt at start of week
    • Picture of the clock = time saver icon
  • Review the rubric
  • Then: Seek clarification if any part of it seems confusing

Audio: As with, you know, academic writing in general, discussion posts are—to write a discussion post you're going to be following kind of the writing process, right?

You’re going to have prewriting, pre-work activities. We're going to get into the drafting phase and then we're going to go into a revision phase where you return to your work and make it better. Lastly an editing phase where you put the finishing touches on and then turn it in. Discussion posts follow the same kind of format.

So first carefully read the discussion prompt at the start of the week. Again, before you dive into the course material, reading the discussion prompt can kind of focus your reading and allow you to pick out the really important parts of that reading that your professor is going to emphasize in the discussion post prompt.

Review the rubric. This is a great, great tip. Reviewing the rubric is important because you can think of this as something of a cheat sheet for your discussion posts or for your assignments in general. I think sometimes students feel that when you turn in an assignment the professor reaches into this unknowable bag of grades and kind of pulls out something that can't really be classified, but in reality professors use rubrics for grading writing just like anybody else. So knowing what they're going to be looking for is going to be to your benefit, so reviewing the rubric is important.

Then seek clarification of any part of the assignment prompt that seems confusing. I do run into students sometimes who are apprehensive to contact their professor for clarification on something like this, but that is completely appropriate to do. If there's something that you have a question on or would like a clarification, it is again wholly appropriate to reach out to your instructor to get that clarification, so that would be another important tip.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: The Many Ways to Write

  • Find the best way that you relate to and that works best for you.
  • One method:

The READ Method = Reach, Evaluate, Analyze, and Decide

Audio: Moving forward. The many ways to write. Again, this is—writing is about finding tips—finding methods and strategies to work for you in composing pieces. The READ method that I'm going to talk about in a minute here is just one way to do this. So if this is something that you find is valuable for you, by all means use it, but if it's not, if you find other strategies more beneficial, I'm not going to stand there and say that you have to use this method. This is just one of many ways to compose an effective discussion post.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: 1. Beginning the READ Method: Reach

  1. Look for main verb (action word) prompts and key words in your assignment prompt.
  2. Make a to do list.

Audio: But first then the R in READ and that acronym stands for Reach. First of all you want to look at the main verb in the prompt and the keyword that you find there. So picking out these keywords and verbs in the assignment prompt is going to help you know what the teacher is asking, what the instructor is asking you to do in this discussion post.

And after that you can make a to-do list. That can be helpful because these are boxes you can check as you're going through your discussion post to make sure you're covering all the bases that your instructor wants you to, that you're responding to the main question in the assignment prompt and, yeah, answering it fully. Sure.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Reach: Example Assignment Prompt

Post by Day 3  Read this week’s readings and lecture; reflect on your own experiences and describe one best experience and one worst experience where you chose to communicate in an electronic/computer communication channel rather than a physical presence or written/printed channel. Be sure to include answers to the following questions:

  • Why did you choose to communicate electronically rather than in person?
  • Why was the experience positive or negative?
  • How do the components and processes of communication apply to the electronic/computer channel?
  • Be sure to support your ideas by connecting them to the week's Learning Resources and  something you have read, heard, seen, or experienced.

Audio: Here's an example of an assignment prompt that often will be used to facilitate discussion posts in a class. And as you can see, the important words here are highlighted in green. So this goes as follows:

“Read this week’s readings and lecture, reflect on your own experiences and describe one best experience and one worst experience where you chose to communicate in an electronic or computer communication channel rather than a physical presence or written printed channel. Be sure to include answers to the following questions: Why did you choose to communicate electronically rather than in person? Why was the experience positive or negative? How do the components and processes of communication apply to the electronic or computer channel?” And lastly, “Be sure to support your ideas by connecting them to the week's learning resources and something you have read, heard, seen or experienced.”

So for those of you who have taken a number of Walden classes this probably sounds pretty familiar, right? Again as you reach into this assignment prompt, these keywords that are highlighted in green should kind of jump out to you because they're telling you what you need to respond to, right?

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: To Do List /Outline

  • What is the topic? Communicating in an Electronic/Computer Channel
  • What do I need to do? Research the benefits of electronic/computer channels vs. face to face and pen and paper channels
  • How should I organize the specific information I need? Two Main Parts  (1. Positive experience, 2. Negative experience)
  • 3 specifics components to address for each:
    1. A scenario I chose electronic/computer communication
    2. Why scenario was negative
    3. How components of communication apply to electronic computer channel 

Audio: So then in making a to-do list from this prompt, the topic that you're going to be talking about here is communication in an electronic or computer channel, yeah. What do you need to do? You need to research the benefits of electronic computer channels versus face-to-face and pen and paper channels. Yeah, again, that's pulled from that assignment prompt. How should I organize the specific information I need? Here it's asking you for one positive negative—excuse me—one positive experience and one negative experience, so it would make sense then to split up your discussion posts into two parts, and each part has three specific components that this professor is asking you to include. One, a scenario that you chose, electronic or computer communication, why that scenario was negative or positive, and how components of communication apply to electronic computer channel. Now, as I'm looking at this to-do list, of a pretty good idea of what this professor is asking, right?

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: 2. Continuing the READ Method: Evaluate

  • Importance of evaluating:
    • Assignment = A Recipe
    • Assignment specifics = Ingredients
  • Evaluate your to do list and compare it with your assignment. Have you missed anything?

Audio: The E in the READ method is Evaluate. It is important to evaluate what exactly is being asked here. Once you have this to-do list, you can kind of then again evaluate what the main points are, what the main question is. If the assignment is a recipe that you're looking up in a recipe book, the specific parts of the assignment are the ingredients that you're going to need in order to make that recipe. Yeah.

Evaluate your to-do list and compare it with your assignment. What have you missed? So now you have two things that you're dealing with. You have this assignment prompt and you have this to-do list that you made. Holding them side by side, ask yourself what have I missed here? What am I leaving out? Is there something from the assignment prompt that I have not but on my to-do list something I need to do when I compose this discussion post that I neglected to put in my to-do list. Yeah, evaluate what you've done so far. Make sure you have all the ingredients to make your recipe so use that metaphor again.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: 3. Continuing the READ Method: Analyze

  • Use your to do list to analyze and apply your course reading.
  • Make connections and do your assigned reading with your to do list at the forefront of your mind.
  • Consider these questions:
    • Have you read anything in the past that relates to your action items?
    • Are there any action items that you would like to know more about and research a bit further?

Audio: Then the A in the READ acronym stands for Analyze. Use your to-do list again to analyze and apply your course readings. Yeah. You want to make connections between what you've been reading in a course and what the professor is asking you to do. Yeah.

Make connections and do your assignment reading with your to-do list at the forefront of your mind. So you're already knowing what you're looking for. You can take your list and keep these things in your mind as you're doing the readings for the week.

And as you are analyzing, consider these questions: Have you read anything in the past that relates to your action items or those items on your to-do list? So what do you know already that could contribute to this to-do list? Also are there any action items that you would like to know more about and research a bit further?

So at times if you see, you know, something on your to-do list that you don't--you're not very familiar with, you could have to go and do more research on that. If you're looking for a term or something that you don't understand, if you're thinking of an idea that you're not familiar with, it's often useful to look that up and to get a strong definition of that before you go on reading and eventually composing your discussion post.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: 4. Finish the READ Method: Decide

  • Decide what form you want your discussion post to take:
    • Consider the rubric, prompt, your to-do list, and your instructor’s preferences
  • Create a formal outline.   

Audio: And lastly, Decide, decide what form you want your discussion post to take. So this would be if we go back to, you know, this to-do list that we had and taking out the main parts of the assignment, our example had two main points, right? We had a positive experience with computer communication and a negative experience. This would be something that would inform what you decide, how you decide to set up that discussion post. Again consider your rubric, the prompt, your to-do list and the instructor's preferences.

Those are all good ideas, good things to keep in mind. And this can also help you create a formal outline. For those of you who find outlines to be useful as I do, you can kind of take that to-do list and turn that into an outline based on the rubric and the prompt, yeah.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Decide: Discussion Post Outline 

Intro: Introduce the topic, engage readers, point to thesis

Thesis: Overall take after analyzing and processing pros and cons of electronic computer communication 

Part I (Positive Scenario)

  1. A scenario I chose electronic/computer communication
  2. Why scenario was positive
  3. How components of communication apply to electronic computer channel 

Part II (Negative Scenario)

  1. A scenario I chose electronic/computer communication
  2. Why scenario was negative
  3. How components of communication apply to electronic computer channel 

Conclusion: Refer back to thesis, summary of main points, leave readers with a lasting impression

Audio: Here is an example outline that you could make for the scenario we just talked about. One thing to note here is that this looks a lot like an outline that you would make for a course paper or a larger academic writing piece. Often times in the Writing Center I will get students who turn in discussion posts to be reviewed with me that really don't have a lot of these traditional essay organizational elements here. By that I mean introduction, a thesis statement, a conclusion. Though this is a less formal genre of writing, it is still important to include some of these really traditional conventions of academic writing.

So an introduction leading the reader into your piece, gaining their attention, giving them some background information is just as important in a discussion post as it is in a course paper. Excuse me.

Then presenting your thesis statement to the reader, having a strong thesis statement for a discussion post as with a larger academic writing assignment shows the reader the main idea or the main argument. It previews the piece for the reader so they can more easily go with you as you discuss a certain idea. A thesis statement for the scenario that we just looked at would be something like overall take after analyzing the processing pros and cons of the electronic computer communication, so your overall impression of this. Is this, you know, useful for you, is this not, is this something you found to be effective method, yes, no, that type of thing.

Then you see in the body of this outline we have kind of our two main parts we discussed earlier, the positive scenario and the negative scenario making up the two main body parts of this discussion post. In each paragraph you would include the scenario you chose, why the scenario was positive or negative in the case with the second body paragraph, and how the components of communication applied to electronic commuter channel. So that piece is kind of bringing in what you read throughout the week.

And lastly, and this is something students miss a lot in discussion post include a conclusion paragraph. Maybe restate or paraphrase your thesis. Summarize some of your main points and really lead the reader out of your document. Just as with an introduction where you're leading the reader in, with a conclusion you want to lead the reader out and provide them with a sense of completion. The reader should get the impression that you're done discussing what you've been discussing. So that's important to kind of give this circular or whole feel to the reader. So don't just end after your body paragraphs. Even if it's a very short conclusion, lead the reader out with some sort of conclusion paragraph.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Now Write!

Audio: Then after you've Reached, you've Evaluated, you've Analyzed, you've Decided, the next thing to do so is sit down and write and take your formal outline and expand upon your ideas, turning your bullet points into first sentences and crafting those sentences into whole paragraphs. One thing we often recommend in the Walden Writing Center is to use the MEAL plan structure. I think this provides a really good formatting for getting all the necessity elements of a body paragraph into a body paragraph. If you're wondering what that's about, go ahead and click that link. It's a valuable format for those of you who are a little unsure about what information or elements need to be included in a body paragraph.

As always, you want to maintain a scholarly respectful tone. In discussion posts again as I mentioned, you are facilitating a conversation. You're participating in a discussion around your topic. As we are all scholarly practitioners here, it's important that you are respectful of the ideas of others and to remember that you can disagree with someone even vehemently disagree with someone while still respecting them as a person which is really what we're going for in terms of scholarly discussion. That's really the most value and fruitful scholarly discussion looks like. You don't have to agree but maintaining that respectful tone is important.

Lastly you want to cite your sources and include a reference page. This is an APA concern. When you're using source material, you need to give credit to the author who published that material, so doing that in a discussion post is important, and it's just as important as doing it in a course paper. Whenever you use the ideas of another or the words of another, you really need to give them credit for that, yeah, kind of across the board.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Creating a Discussion Post: Finalizing

Read through your post again

  • Did you answer assignment questions?
  • Did you meet each requirement?
  • Do the ideas connect logically?

Check grammar and typos

  • Use MS Word’s spelling / grammar check or Grammarly
    • Picture of the clock = time saver icon

Audio: Then after you have created your discussion, after you've drafted to use the verbiage of the writing process, you then want to go back and finalize that process and edit that, put the finishing touches on that. Read through your post again. Often it helps to read through it out loud so you can sort of try on a little bit more of what the reader or what your audience is going to be reading. And you can ask yourself, did you answer the assignment questions? Did you meet each requirement from your checklist? Do the ideas connect logically? Yeah.

Then you can kind of turn to editing, to checking the grammar and typos and maybe a few punctuation questions that you have to once again finalize this discussion post and to turn it in or to abandon it as writing instructors have told me in the past. To help you do this the Microsoft Word spell check is helpful or Grammarly is something that we have here at Walden that can help you with those sentence level concerns you may have with your writing.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Questions?

Picture of hands raised with question marks around them.

Audio: At this time I will turn it over to you guys. If you have any questions, feel free to type those in.

Beth: Thank you so much, Michael, and everyone like he said please continue to submit those questions in the Q & A box. One of questions is about those citations and do you usually recommend they include a full reference list?

Michael: Yes, absolutely. Citation and reference lists go hand and in. They're corresponding elements of academic writing. By that I mean for every citation you should have a full reference entry for that citation. Giving the reader the full publication information. To me this is kind of a—this is an authority thing. It's a credibility thing. As always, you want to build authority with your audience. You want to come off as an authoritative source. And when you provide a full reference list you're essentially being transparent with the research you've done. You're saying here's how I interpreted this source material. If you would like to verify that my interpretation is valid, here's where I got that. You can go and read it for yourself. So yeah, I would definitely recommend including a full reference list in your discussion posts. Good question.

Beth: And related to that, we had a student asking whether there's a minimum number of references we should have in discussion posts. What would you say to that?

Michael: A minimum number of references. Yeah, I don't know like if a number comes to mind as a minimum number of references. I'm going to give you the writing instructor answer. The writing instructor answer is use as many sources as you need to fully support your argument. Right? I know that's a little bit wishy washy but you really -- in providing source material, you're using that to support your main points, right? So there really isn't a minimum number. As long as you feel that your points are fully supported with scholarly research, then you've reached the minimum number if that makes sense.

Beth: Yeah, definitely, and if it's okay, Michael, I was just going to add too to make sure to pay attention to those discussion prompts because those often will let you know how many sources are required, whether sources are even required and some of the discussion posts are more informal and you're reflecting on things where some require a certain number of sources so always pay attention to the discussion prompts and the directions there. That should help guide you as well.

Michael: Yeah, that's a great point. Okay. Any other questions?

Beth: I'm looking here a little bit. Yeah, so we had one student who is asking and said, you know, you mentioned the idea of considering instructor preferences, and the student was asking whether you had any suggestions for how to determine those preferences so do you have suggestions for that.

Michael: Determining instructor preferences. This is the kind of thing you have to feel out with your instructor, but if you have questions, this would be something you should feel free to ask your professor. Throughout the course of a course here at Walden, you'll be turning in a number of writing things, writing assignments, so you'll really get a feel for what they're looking for over the course of a semester, but if you have questions about that, it's perfectly appropriate to reach out and ask your professor that, yeah.

Beth: And, sorry, I'm going to add one more thing if that's okay.

Michael: Sure.

Beth: I was going to say as an instructor of some courses here at Walden myself, the other thing I would say is really pay close attention to those announcements. Often if your instructor is going to provide you specific preferences or directions about an assignment, they will do so in the announcements so pay close attention to those. That's it. And thanks, Michael.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Common Problem: Too Long

  • Write it all out, and then cut away.
    • What can you consolidate or remove as unnecessary?
  • Look for signs of wordiness.
    • “There is” and “There are”
    • “Due to the fact that”
    • Adjectives and adverbs (“very”, “really”, etc.)
    • Direct quotes
  • Adjust your thesis so it is narrower in scope.

Audio: Michael: Cool. I'll move on then. A common problem with discussion posts is often they can get a little bit long. Students feel that I think in general as a means to, you know, be as thorough as possible students will include a lot of information some of which isn't always necessary.

So to combat this, it's good to write out your whole post and then to go back and look at what you can cut away. A useful metaphor here is thinking about sculpting. Say you start with a big block of granite and then you chisel it away to make what you are sculpting. I think first and foremost getting your thoughts onto paper is important but then returning to that and saying what do I really need to include here. What can be cut away is important also. What can I consolidate or remove as it is unnecessary.

Another way to combat this idea of having too long of a discussion post is to look for signs of wordiness. For example, something like “there is” or “there are.” So if you're saying, “there are five reasons why I love to write…”, you—it would be better to just say, “the five reasons I love to write are…”, right? Get to the point using these kind of unnecessary words can be cut out so cut them out, yeah. Something like “due to the fact that” is another thing that can be removed here.

Adjectives and adverbs. In academic writing you really want to avoid any type of exaggeration so if you're looking at say a company's marketing plan and you're saying something like, “the marketing plan worked really well for the company. It would be better to just say the marketing plan worked well for the company.” It gets the same information across only you're not adding unnecessary words. I mean, yeah, yeah.

Another thing to think about is direct quotes. At the level you guys are at of writing, direct quotes should be used very, very sparingly if at all in your writing. You really want to focus on paraphrasing the ideas of the authors you're working with. For example if an author coins a phase for a concept that is something you would want to put in quotation marks but in general eliminating overly wordy quotes can be another way to cut down on a discussion post that's too long.

Lastly when looking at your thesis statement, this is probably the most important place to do any cutting in your document. You want your thesis statement to be as direct as concise as it possibly can be. You want to state the main point or the main argument of your piece without including anything that is unnecessary, so in kind of in the shortest space possible, so if you take a look at your thesis statement and say, I don't really need this, cut it out. If you can cut anything out of your thesis statement and keep the same meaning, absolutely do that. That's just good writing practice.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Assessing Sample Discussion Posts

Picture of Scrabble tiles on a table with the word “ASSESS” spelled out.

Slide then changes to the following: Sample Post 1

Read the sample article (Hemmeter, 1990) in our learning resources for the week. Consider our discussion about the characteristics of academic writing.

Write 1-2 paragraphs about one important characteristic of academic writing and how the sample article fulfilled or failed to include that characteristic. Support your discussion with specific examples from the article.

? What important requirements can we identify from this discussion post prompt? ?

Audio: So then, yeah, let's take a look at some sample discussion posts here. First off we have a sample discussion prompt. It could look something like this: “Read the example article, Hemmeter, 1990, in our learning resources for the week. Consider our discussion about the characteristics of academic writing. Write one to two paragraphs about one important characteristic of academic writing and how the sample article fulfilled or failed to include that characteristic. Support your discussion with specific examples from the article.”

 

Visual: The webinar layout changes to open a chat box for attendees to respond into.

Audio: In the chat box I would like to know, what important requirements can we identify from that discussion post prompt? What important elements are going to be there for us to respond to from this discussion post? So I'll be quiet for a second, and I'll monitor the chat box. Go ahead and type your answers in there.

[Silence as attendees submit their responses in the chat box.]

Read the sample article, yeah, that's a pretty--that's of elemental importance, Allison. You definitely want to read the article before you write a discussion post about it. Yeah, good, Judith and Gabriela. This is about the characteristics of academic writing so that's going to be one piece that you want to include here. Good, good, I'm seeing other students with the same response. That's good. Support your discussion, yeah, so there's going to be some sort of backing, right, Maryland? Some--yeah, some backing, some evidence that you're going to present that supports your point here. Using specific examples is always important, Crystal, yeah, good idea. Yep. Okay. Yeah, that's pretty good. I think I'm going to move on.

 

Visual: The webinar layout changes to close the chat box. Slide changes to the following: Sample Post 1

Read the sample article (Hemmeter, 1990) in our learning resources for the week. Consider our discussion about the characteristics of academic writing.

Write 1-2 paragraphs about one important characteristic of academic writing and how the sample article fulfilled or failed to include that characteristic. Support your discussion with specific examples from the article.

                        “The prime objective of scientific reporting is clear communication.” Such as using good words and evidences. Hemmeter (1990) did not always do this in the article. Academic writing is hard because you have to use the correct word and credit sources. It is very different from other writings!

References…

Audio: So from this assignment prompt an example discussion post could look something like this. Yeah, again we're talking about this importance of academic writing here, and we're talking about the importance of citation, yeah, and doing that.

 

Visual: Slide changes to replace the sample discussion post with a new sample discussion post:

Clearly communicating to an audience is an important goal of academic writing in the science fields (Walden University, 2015), and because of this it is important for all of us to keep in mind in our writing for classes at Walden. One way to achieve clear communicating is using formal wording and evidence to support ideas, which can be a challenge.

            In the sample article we read for the week, Hemmeter (1990) did not always do this. Hemmeter instead used casual language that is more appropriate in other genres of writing, but that is not appropriate for an academic science audience. Additionally, Hemmeter did not usually cite other sources to support his ideas. Instead, Hemmeter relied on his own data and conclusions, which caused me to question whether his conclusions were valid.

References…

Audio: Another sample discussion post an even better one: “Clearly communicating to an audience is an important goal of academic writing in the science fields, and because of this it is important for all of us to keep in mind in our writing for classes at Walden. One way to achieve clear communication is using formal wording and evidence to support ideas which can be a challenge. In the sample article we read for the week, Hemmeter did not always do this. Hemmeter instead used casual language that is more appropriate in other genres of writing but that is not appropriate for an academic audience. Additionally Hemmeter did not usually cite other sources to support his ideas. Instead he relied on his own data and conclusions which caused me to question whether his conclusions were valid.”

So again we're bringing up this idea of characteristics of academic writing and secondly this is tailored to sample article that the professor provided for this discussion post, this Hemmeter 1990 article. This author references directly to that article and critiques the conventions used, the conventions of academic writing that Hemmeter is using. Yeah, that's a strong sample discussion post.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Sample Post 2

This week we talked about how citing sources contributes to creating academic integrity for you as an author. Reflect on the importance of citing sources and your own academic integrity in your writing. Then, write 1 paragraph about how you will make sure to cite sources in your writing.

            Academic integrity is an integral part of academic writing at Walden and beyond (Walden University, 2015). The American Psychological Association (2008) tells students that they should always cite sources when using them in their writing. These citations ensure that authors get credit for their ideas.

References…

Audio: Here's another sample. The prompt goes something like this: “This week we talked about how citing sources contributes to creating academic integrity for you as an author. Reflect on the importance of citing sources and your own academic integrity in your writing. Then write one paragraph about how you will make sure to cite sources in your writing.”

It's clear we need to discuss the importance of citing sources. It's also clear that the second thing we need to include is how we—or me as someone writing a discussion post—is going to make sure that I do this, is going to make sure that I include citations in my writing.

So a sample response could be something like this: “Academic integrity is an integral part of academic writing at Walden and beyond. The American Psychological Association tells students that they should always cite sources when using them in their writing. These citations ensure that authors get credit for their ideas.”

Yeah, so this is a good start, right? We're talking about the importance of citation in academic writing, but what this is kind of failing to do is to talk about that second element, is to talk about how this student is going to ensure that they accomplish this in their writing.

 

Visual: The sample discussion post is replaced on the slide with a new sample discussion post:

            Academic integrity is an integral part of academic writing at Walden and beyond (Walden University, 2015), and it involves always citing sources when using them in my writing. In the past I have had trouble including citations because I was unsure how to create the citation. The Writing Center (2015) suggests that students create reference entry immediately when they read a source. I plan on doing this because it makes creating the citation easier when I’m writing. This advice will help ensure I include citations.

References…

Audio: So a better prompt, a better paragraph, a better discussion post would sound something like this: “Academic integrity is an integral part of academic writing at Walden and beyond, and it involves always citing sources when using them in my writing. In the past I have had trouble including citations because I was unsure how to create them. The Writing Center suggests that students create reference entries immediately when they read a source. I plan on doing this because it makes creating the citation easier when I'm writing. This advice will help ensure I include citations.”

So the difference between the first example and the second is the first one covers half of the assignment prompt while the second one covers the entire thing. Again, picking out the important elements from the prompt is important and then covering those fully is really what you're trying to do as you're responding to those assignment prompts.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Responding to a Discussion Post

Picture of a man writing in a notebook at a table with a computer next to him.

Audio: Okay. Yeah, so then the second element of kind of discussion posts as an element of a Walden course or an online course in general is responding to the discussion posts of others.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Responding to a Post: Prewriting

  • Double-check the assignment
    • Number of posts to respond to, deadline, etc.
  • Read your peers’ posts
    • Note ideas that you find interesting, challenging, or surprising
    • Consider how these ideas relate to your reading
      • Note discrepancies
    • Select two (or more) posts to respond to

Audio: I mentioned this earlier but again this is about creating dialogue, engaging in a dialogue with your peers, with your colleagues about the material that you've been going over in your course. So in responding to a discussion post, there's a writing process that takes place here as well, a prewriting, drafting, that sort of thing.

You want to double check the assignment. First off and logistically, think of the number of posts that you need to respond to and the deadline when you need to have responded to those posts. Yeah, that's just good to keep in mind as a student in general, right?

In reading your peers' post you want to note the ideas that you find interesting, challenging, surprising. The ideas that you don't agree with is something that should stick out to you in reading the posts of your colleagues. Excuse me. And consider how these relate to your reading. Is your colleague interpreting the readings from the course differently than you are. That is something that would be useful note as you're responding to that post.

 You want to select two or more posts to respond to and again this really had to do with the instructor and their preferences. Some instructors want you to respond to two of your colleagues' posts. Some more, some less. Double checking the assignment there is really the way to find out how many you need to respond to.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Responding to a Post: Prewriting

Ask yourself questions to further determine why this post interests you.

  • Do I agree or disagree?
  • Do I have an example or experience that aligns with my peer’s ideas?
  • Is the argument effective?
  • Does it have any logical flaws?
  • Does it present new information?
  • Does it need further clarification?

Audio: Ask yourself questions to further determine why this post interests you. So understanding why a post sticks out to you and why you might want to respond to it helps you to respond in a better way. Do you agree or disagree with what they're saying or do you have an example? Is the argument effective or ineffective? Does it have any logical flaws? Does it present new information? Does it need further clarification? Asking these questions about a colleague's discussion post is really going to give you the ammunition that you need to thoughtfully and critically respond to that student's post. This is going to be what you draw from in your response, the answers to these questions.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Responding to a Post

Read a selection of your colleagues' postings. Respond by Day 6 to two of your colleagues' postings in one or more of the following ways:

  • Compare and contrast their observations with what you found.
  • Ask a probing question.
  • Share an insight from having read your colleague's posting.
  • Offer and support an opinion.
  • Validate an idea with your own experience.
  • Make a suggestion.
  • Expand on your colleague's posting.

Return to this Discussion in a few days to read the responses to your initial posting. Note what you have learned and/or any insights you have gained as a result of the comments your colleagues made.

(Walden University, 2013b)

Audio: In responding to a post, this is kind of a sample prompt that would encourage you to respond to the post of another. You want to compare and contrast your observation, ask probing questions, offer support or an opinion, talk about your own experiences, make a discussion. I'm not going to read the whole thing and for the sake of time because I want to be able to respond to some questions at the end. Again this is similar to the questions we saw in the last slide here in slide 31. This is going to provide you with the ammunition that you kind of need in order to thoughtfully and critically respond to the post of a colleague.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Often more conversational, but still…

  • Follow the same writing process
  • Cite any sources you use
  • Maintain a scholarly and collegial tone
    • Engage with that person’s ideas rather than the person (especially if you disagree)
    • Use respectful language
    • Avoid all-caps
  • Continue the conversation!

Audio: All of the same writing process as I mentioned earlier. Prewrite, think about what you want to write, then get a draft going, then return to that draft and make it better. Lastly edit that draft and polish it, get it to a place where you feel good about it and you're ready to put your name on it and then post that.

Cite any sources that you use, absolutely. As always, you want to give credit to the authors who first published these sources. This is really important here.

As we were talking about taking a critical eye to your colleague's post, maintain a scholarly and collegial tone. Engage with the person's ideas rather than the person. Yeah, so don't attack someone's character, right? Attack their ideas. If their ideas are poor, then, you know, in a respectful and collegial way point out where these ideas perhaps are flawed. But again, maintain a respect for your colleagues as you would expect them to respect you, yeah.

Avoid all caps. This is kind of funny because you'll get like an e-mail from your grandma or something, right, and it will be in all caps. And like grandma, are you yelling at me? Yeah, avoid all caps because that technically is yelling. It's meant to display a yelling voice. And as always with discussion posts as I mentioned from the beginning of this webinar, you want to continue the conversation. It's about facilitating more exchange of ideas.

Don't respond to a colleague's post and think, oh, well that settles it. I have the end all be all answer to that person's post. Instead you want to facilitate further conversation, right? Leave room for them to respond to you and to continue this dialogue between the two of you or more.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Example: Responding

Response to Pat

I agree that Johnson seemed to be very thorough in using sources to support his ideas, Pat. In the examples you gave, however, I noticed that Johnson only used quotations. The Walden Writing Center (2013) advised students to paraphrase more than directly quote in their writing. So, while we can look to Johnson as a model for using sources in our writing, we should paraphrase those sources instead of quote them. How else would you revise Johnson’s work for improvement?

References…

 

Response to Helen

Helen, you provided helpful insight when you mentioned that the author used a lot of colloquial language, which we should avoid in academic writing. As I also found in my article, it can be easy to overlook colloquial language because we use it so often in normal conversations. I found the Walden Writing Center’s (2013) examples of colloquial language and other types of casual wording useful in thinking more about this topic.

References…

Audio: Here are some sample responses, the response to Pat: “I agree that Johnson seemed to be very thorough in using sources to support his ideas. In the example you gave, however, I noticed that Johnson only used quotations. The Walden Writing Center advises to paraphrase more than directly quote in their writing. So while you can look to Johnson as a model for using sources in our writing we should paraphrase those sources instead of quoting them. How else would you revise Johnson's work for improvement?”

So here this author is essentially disagreeing with Pat. They're saying they had good source work in this piece but they should not have been quoting but paraphrasing. And what I really like about this sample response is in the end they pose a question that would facilitate further discussion. Again it's important to note here there's a scholarly tone and respectful tone maintained throughout. Even though the person responding to Pat's post doesn't agree with what they said, they maintain a tone that's productive and respectful, yeah.

I'm going to skip over this second response so we have a little more time for questions. But again, the important thing as I've mentioned, I'm just going to harp on this one more time, be respectful of your colleagues, work with their ideas, don't take it to a place where it's personal or aggressive. You want to be respectful and professional if your discussion post responses.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Other Resources

Audio: Other resources from the Writing Center that can help you do this. We have a number of different resources from our web page about discussing—or about writing discuss posts, excuse me—about critical reading and thesis development and all the things you see there. So if you're wondering, if you have trouble with these things, a great place to start would be to dive into some of these resources to help you do that, to help you compose effective writing is what I mean.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Questions: Now: Let us know! • Anytime: writingsupport@waldenu.edu

Watch the recordings: “Walden Assignment Prompts: Learn the Writing Requirements”  and “Developing a Paper: From Discussion Post to Course Paper”

Audio: Okay. So then, yeah, we're to the point in the webinar where I'm going to take more questions from you guys, but before I do, I want to remind you that all webinars are archived, so you can go in the webinar archive and take a look at some of these webinars that are also relevant to you as you craft discussion posts for your Walden courses. One entitled, “Walden Assignment Prompts: Learn the Writing Requirements.” That's again about reaching and taking out these important elements of assignment prompts that you need to respond to in discussion posts. “Developing a Paper: From Discussion Post to Course Paper,” what I like about this title is it implies that discussion posts have the same major elements of course papers which they do. So yeah, this would be another way to learn how to expand your ideas even further from a discussion post and to make it into something more formal, more longer as in a discussion—course paper, excuse me.

So yeah, for now I'm going to go back to Beth, and we're going to take some more questions here. But if you—as Beth mentioned at the beginning of this—if you have questions after the—this webinar or for some reason I don't get to your question, first of all, I apologize, but you can direct those questions to this writing support e-mail, and they will get back to you with an answer. Yeah, Beth what questions do we have?

Beth: Thanks, Michael. We had one question about use of first person. I wondered if you could talk about when it might be appropriate to use first person and kind of how to make sure that you're using first person appropriately in a discussion post.

Michael: Good question. I think a lot of students come in with kind of a phobia of using the first person. Perhaps they've been penalized for that in previous writing classes that they've participated in, but APA specifically says that you want to be as specific as you can with who is stating what. So when you're taking a source, for example, if I had published something, you would want to say, “Dusek argues this,” right? So you're naming that source. When you are presenting your own ideas, it is appropriate to use the first person there and to include the first person construction when it is your own ideas. One way that students kind of run into problems here, though, is they say things like, “I think,” “I believe,” “I argue,” and the problem with these is that they're a bit redundant in academic writing. As your name is at the top of the discussion post or course paper, it is implied that what is not cited in that piece is—are—your own thoughts, so you don't need to include something like “I argue.” Instead just go on to argue that if that makes sense. Does that make sense?

Beth: Yes definitely. It does definitely. Thanks so much, Michael. We had another a couple of other questions just about whether students should or shouldn't use certain things in discussion posts, so I'm going to lump these questions together a little bit. One student was asking whether she should be using APA in discussion posts just like course papers, and then another student was asking whether they can use underlining italics and bolding in their discussion posts. Could you address those questions?

Michael: Yeah, absolutely. APA and discussion posts, that gets a big thumbs up from me. Whenever you're using—whenever you're working with sources and citing them and referencing them, you need to use APA formatting here at Walden. That's the formatting style we adhere to, that American Psychological Association style. So definitely use APA citation and reference in your discussion posts. Now in terms of underline, bold and—using underlining, bold, and italics in your writing, I guess my response would have to do with what you're trying—what effect you're trying to have on the reader, right? In terms of—often times using italics can be a good way to add emphasis to one or two words within your writing and really make them stick out to the reader, so that would be something that you can appropriately do. Underlining is not really conventional to add emphasis to your writing, so I would avoid that one. I would also avoid bolding because oftentimes in APA style you're going to use bold to signify a heading of some kinds so that can kind of confuse the reader there. So if you're trying to add emphasis to your writing, I think it's most appropriate to use italics in that case, yeah.

Beth: Awesome. Thanks so much, Michael. We had another question about whether there is an optimal length for a discussion post. I know you touched on this a little bit, but could you talk about that again.

Michael: Sure. This is a very common question with Walden students and other students that I've had in writing courses. They will ask how long does it need to be? Does it need to be a specific length or what's the minimum length? Again, I'm going to defer to the writing instructor answer here. How long does it need to be? It needs to be as long as it takes to fully cover your point. Okay. So if you bring up a point in a discussion post, you want to get to a place where you feel you've discussed that idea fully before you end that discussion post. I think another way to address this would be to think about the MEAL plan and incorporating all the elements of the MEAL plan into your body paragraphs. So if you're not providing analysis in your body paragraphs, if you're just having a topic sentence and then using source material, then it's an indication that you need to add to that, right? You need to provide some analysis for the reader and without getting too into what the MEAL plan is, that would be one way—one indication that it needs to be a bit longer than it is. But again this is really about covering a topic fully. Bringing something to a place of conclusion means you've said everything you wish to say about it, that you've discussed it fully. That would be how you know that you've reached the correct length of a discussion post, and you can always go back from there and cut out things that you find are unnecessary to make it a little bit more concise, but the short answer here is how long should it be? As long as it takes.

Beth: And, Michael, do you mind if I add one more note to that?

Michael: Yeah.

Beth: I was going to say too of course remember as well what will help determine how much you need to say or what you want to say is the scope of that discussion post and that's often going to be dictated by the discussion prompt. Of course you take the room you need to talk about and say what you need to say, but do pay attention to that discussion post prompt because that will help give you guidance on what kind of scope you should have in your discussion post. If it's one paragraph, two paragraphs, what have you, that will help you determine how much information to talk about as well. Does that make sense?

Michael: Yeah, it totally does. And this goes back to what we were talking about with the READ plan too. Looking at that assignment prompt, how long should it be? It should be long enough to cover all of these important questions that are being asked in the prompt as Beth kind of indicated, so yeah, that's really helpful. Thanks, Beth.

 Beth: All right. I don't see any other questions really coming in here. So I wondered, Michael, if you have any just like one last thought or one last tip to leave students with today, what would you leave them with?

Michael: My last thought would harken back to that kind of outline slide. I think students take—think students approach discussion posts as much more informal than, say, a course paper when in reality they need to contain the same elements as a course paper does, only in a shorter space. So my one tip would be make sure that you're including an introduction section and a thesis statement and lead the reader out with a conclusion. Maintain this kind of—excuse me—include these traditional organizational elements in a discussion post as you would in a course paper. That would be my punctuating tip.

Beth: Fantastic. Thank you so much, Michael. Thank you for such a great presentation. It sounds like I'm seeing thank-yous coming in the Q&A box. So lots of people appreciate it, and I want to thank everyone for coming today. We're going to go ahead and wrap up for the night. But thank you for coming. We hope to see you at other webinars. E-mail if you have questions and then of course those recordings that Michael mentioned as well. Have a great night everyone, and we hope to see you again soon.