Developing teaching practice


As an alliance of academics undertaking blended delivery, we have experienced the challenge of tailoring teaching strategies to different learning styles. Our teaching has evolved, moving from traditional didactic delivery to the utilisation of online technology to accommodate both academic and student expectations. The pressure to teach within constrained resources and issues presented from the COVID-19 pandemic has provided opportunities to optimise educational technology. We identified a gap in genuinely engaged online discussions, observing that pedagogic value was often obscure. This cross-sectional study investigated the opinions and experiences of undergraduate students in four health science online units where asynchronous discussion boards were linked to summative assessment. By assessing discussion posts, students may be motivated to participate further, with student engagement influenced through educator involvement, the discussion purpose and group interactivity. Whilst some students were critical of the value of asynchronous discussion boards, others positively viewed discussions as a platform for peer engagement and information sharing. Discussion boards can provide active learning experiences particularly for online students; however, effective educator involvement and online supportive teaching strategies and practices are crucial to pedagogical success. Based on the key findings from this study we propose implications for practice in a higher education context.

Practitioner Notes

  1. Students provide valuable and insightful opinions regarding their discussion board experiences to be harnessed to improve higher education online learning and teaching practices.
  2. Post COVID-19, the need for coherent interfaces to deliver and impact upon positive student experiences and effective interactive dialogue is essential.
  3. Discussion board designers should consider the fit between unit learning outcomes and capability of students and educators to use technology interfaces to enhance student engagement.
  4. The role and influence of educators has a positive impact on student learning, perceptions of their experience and work readiness.
  5. Where student cohorts are diverse, representing different cultures, religions, nationalities and linguistic backgrounds, both educators and students should empathise with and venerate other learners.