Assigning Students to Act as Discussion Moderators

During in-class discussions, the entire class and the instructor may be part of the same discussion, but sometimes instructors put students into smaller groups, with multiple discussions happening around the room. While the instructor may be able to walk around the room and listen in on what the students are saying, they can’t catch everything that is said throughout the room. In such cases, instructors need to rely on students to facilitate the group discussions on their own. The instructor may then ask a representative from each group to share the key points of what was said.

Online discussions in Canvas can work the same way. If the class is small, the instructor can likely read all of the posts and even respond to many of them. When a class is larger, however, the number of posts to be read may become daunting for the instructor and the students.

In Canvas, students can be assigned to groups for discussions. Students within each group can read and respond to what others in the group post to the forum.

Just as with in-class discussions, students will facilitate the discussions and then share the key points with the instructor and other students in the class. There are a few ways to create this in your course:

  • Assign students to be moderators for a discussion and switch students for each new discussion. Have the facilitator write a summary that is shared in a common area in the course (e.g. the discussion forum. If the groups are more than a handful of people, assign a different student in the group to write the summary.
  • Let students sign up for these roles, still changing who has these roles for each discussion.

Just as with the in-class discussion where the instructor walks around the room and listens in, you should still look in on the groups to make sure things are running smoothly, and comment where you feel it’s appropriate.

Having students act as discussion moderators and write summaries of the discussions can make the discussions less work for the instructor and students, and increase student engagement through the facilitation and summarizing processes.

On a final note, if you find it difficult to include small group discussions in your face-to-face courses due to constrictions such as desks being bolted to the floor, you may want to consider using discussion forums in Canvas to meet this need.

For more on setting up discussions in Canvas see:

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