What You Can Do With GoPost
GoPost is a Web-based tool that can be used to create an online discussion board for your course or project. GoPost owners and their collaborators can easily manage, moderate, and track participation in online discussions. Participants can initiate and join in online conversations from anywhere they have Web access.
While GoPost can be used in a variety of contexts, this guide focuses on planning to use GoPost discussion boards to enhance teaching and learning. With GoPost discussion boards you can:
- engage more students by expanding the number of opportunities for class participation and varying the types of participation available
- personalize the learning experience by creating small groups within a larger class
- extend space for discussion before class by providing a forum for students to share initial questions and responses to new materials
- extend space for discussion after class by provide a forum for students to share follow up on activities and develop ideas
- increase opportunities for students to think through course concepts and articulate ideas in writing without increasing your paper load
- archive course discussions
- gather feedback on the course by providing a forum for student questions and concerns
Planning and Preparation
Creating a discussion board with GoPost is quick and easy. In order to best meet your goals, some planning is likely in order.
How can GoPost enhance my course?
- refer to it or include it in in-class discussions;
- closely link it to the topics discussed in class;
- give appropriate credit and guidelines (see below).
What types of class activities can GoPost facilitate?
Many course activities can be enhanced or extended by online interaction. Some examples include:
- study groups;
- collaboration toward group projects;
- peer review;
- distribution of announcements and course materials;
Shall I make it required or optional for students?
You should require your students to use GoPost if your purpose is:
- to promote online discussion;
- to receive feedback about course content or readings.
Make GoPost optional if your purpose is:
- to provide an extra credit or supplementary forum for voluntary student discussion;
- to provide space for informal Q and A.
Keep in mind that some instructors have found that an optional GoPost discussion board can help those students who are reluctant to speak up in class discussions.
Should I grade students on their use of GoPost?
Grading GoPost participation has pros and cons:
- Grades can be an incentive to participate more fully.
- Grades can be acknowledgement for good work or collaboration.
But keep in mind that:
- Grading takes time.
- You should specify your grading criteria before students begin using GoPost (see below).
What criteria should I use to grade GoPost performance?
GoPost makes it easy for you to keep track of the number of student postings. In addition, you may want to grade students' performance based on one or more of the following:
- comments or questions that promote discussion;
- clarifications of other students' questions, ideas, or postings;
- responses to assigned questions and prompts;
- indications that students have read the course readings;
- applications of course readings to other issues;
- reference to other sources of information.
Should I set deadlines for postings?
Setting deadlines for students' postings offers several advantages.
- It can help students structure their time.
- It ensures that postings appear regularly rather than sporadically.
- It can keep discussions and collaboration going smoothly.
- It helps you structure the time you spend responding to students' postings.
Note that in setting deadlines you should keep in mind student schedules, their access to technology and other
Should I limit the number of students in each online discussion?
If you limit the number of students in each online discussion to 15-20 participants, you will obtain:
- focused dialogue rather than multiple monologues;
- participation in discussions rather than comments on the readings;
- higher percentage of original postings, reducing redundancy and repetition;
- less frequent archiving of postings;
- fewer postings to skim, scan or read;
- reduced download time.
Whether you choose to have small or large group GoPost discussions, we recommend that you:
- provide structure;
- encourage discussion by requiring or suggesting students to write not only original postings, but also responses to others;
- archive regularly to keep the number of postings in the main window at a minimum.
Should I provide guiding questions or topics for the discussion?
Guiding questions or topics, based on your goals for the online discussion, enable you to:
- direct students to key issues in the readings;
- encourage students to make connections between course topics or readings and other issues;
- facilitate in-class discussion if questions are posted prior to class;
- continue in-class discussions online.
Should I read the postings, comment, provide summaries and redirect the discussion?
Consider whether you will:
- respond to each student's posting;
- summarize the day's postings;
- provide (evaluative) responses to student postings.
Once you have decided, you should make clear to students what your involvement in the message board will be. You should also make clear when your GoPost office hours will be -- i.e., when (or how often) you will check the discussion board.
You should also consider what role students should have in shaping online discussions. You could ask your students to provide daily or weekly summaries, for example, and encourage them to respond to each other on the message board.
Keep in mind that it is a good idea to provide examples of good and poor postings for students either in the GoPost account itself or on your syllabus.
Using the Tool
Should I allow students to choose screen names thereby remaining anonymous to their peers?
GoPost gives you the option of letting students choose screen names when they post. Using screen names allow:
- more open discussion, as students may feel more comfortable expressing dissenting opinions;
- a sense of safety for shy students or those worried about sounding "stupid;"
- fewer opportunities for personal statements or comments.
But keep in mind that:
- anonymity can discourage accountability - especially in controversial discussions;
- as GoPost owner, you will have access to a master list of student names and screen names. You may want to let your students know that you can trace their comments for grading and accountability reasons.
Guiding your students
How can I let students know why I want them to use GoPost and what I hope they will get out of it?
You can address an introductory letter or statement to your students that tells them:
- why you want them to use GoPost;
- how you expect them to use it;
- what you hope they will get out of it.
You can communicate this by:
- using the "description" space in the manage "Name and Description" page, to have the basic guidelines included in the GoPost board itself;
- simply posting a message to the board;
- adding the instructions to the course syllabus or course Web site;
- including the statement in the first "GoPost" assignment.
Keep in mind that it is a good idea to give your students an initial GoPost assignment to try the tool out, set their preferences and post their first message. This first message may be an introduction of themselves, which will also help you get to know your students. They may also be asked to explain why they are in the course and what they hope to learn.
What should the content of the posting be and what rules of conduct should the student follow?
Tell your students what kinds of postings are appropriate or give them examples of good and poor postings.
- Encourage students to remember that their behavior on GoPost is governed by the same rules of academic conduct as their behavior in class.
- Help promote sensitivity to diverse opinions and points of view and discourage "flaming" and other forms of inappropriate behavior.
How can I help students make effective use of new conversations?
If you want your students to start new conversations, instruct them to use the subject line as a "mini-abstract" of the content of their posting.
- This will greatly aid users as they skim and scan for specific kinds of postings.
Should I set guidelines for length of postings?
Set a maximum limit:
- Without a limit some students may be tempted to write long passages that may unnecessarily increase reading (and download) time without adding substantially to discussion.
- A 250-word limit is a commonly recommended length.
Set a minimum limit
- Some students may not say enough to really promote discussion.
- You may want to require 3-4 sentence minimum.
Should I alert students to the GoPost profile options?
Profile options help both students and instructors manage GoPost. Settings include:
- Screen name selection
- Avatar (small images)
- Contact information
- Email notification of new postings (users can choose to receive notification and the frequency with which they are sent).
Assessing and reflecting
How can I have students evaluate their experience with GoPost?
You can have the Center for Teaching and Learning (theCTL@uw.edu) collect student feedback, process it and review it with you along with a representative from Catalyst.
- You can ask students to write a narrative evaluation of the GoPost tool. How did it enhance (or detract from) their learning? What would they suggest for future uses of GoPost?
- You can ask students to write a letter of advice to the next quarter's class about how or when to use GoPost.
Should I use quantitative methods of assessment?
- You can use the "Additional Questions" section on the back of the IAS evaluation form to have students rate - from "excellent" to "very poor" - their experience with GoPost.
- You can ask students to assign a letter grade to the tool to evaluate its effectiveness.
- You can design a survey with WebQ to assess the use of technology in your classroom. You can make it as short or long as you wish and choose from an array of different question types. For more information see http://www.washington.edu/lst/web_tools/webq.
For technical questions you can contact LST:
For pedagogical questions you can contact the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL)
Effective Student Preparation for Online Learning
Keeping Online Asynchronous Discussions on Topic
Handbook for Instructors on the Use of Electronic Class
Pedagogical Roles and Implementation Guidelines for Online Communication