Although there are many documented advantages of learning online, some educators still question this innovative way of teaching because of technical obstacles, because they suspect or doubt its effectiveness, or because they are unfamiliar with the approach. Indeed, the teaching considerations for an online course, versus a traditional in-residence-based course, do change by necessity because of the different learning environments.
Making traditional course material digital, converting lectures to streaming video, and assigning tests or writing assignments online are not enough to convert the full classroom experience into avirtual one.
What is lacking in the virtual setting is the dynamic interchange among students and instructors. Although their concerns are valid, in-residence educators should find solace in learning that one of the most fundamental forms of teaching, the student-peer discussion facilitated by a knowledgeable instructor, remains as valid for mature-student distance learning today as it was for Socrates. This venerable method remains effective for online students for the same reasons it works in the classroom — because the discourse among students actually builds knowledge and keeps learning focused on their needs. Online, this Socratic method of teaching, also known as a “threaded discussion” or a “forum,” is an excellent distancelearning tool. All online instructors should consider using this method.
This is a dated (2006) but highly relevant article about using threaded discussion.
It takes skill and training to keep discussions vital and thought provoking. Courses with strong discussion facilitation remain the gold standard (IMHO).