Lecturer, Sharitha Bharuthram (English for Educational Development, CHS) created an interactive online environment within iKamva. The discussion forum was used as a communication and assessment tool. “The purpose of the assignment was to stimulate the students ability to participate in a meaningful discussion and share ideas in a way that promotes further debate”.
The Natural Medicine and Dietetics students engaged within the online discussion forum by responding to a specific topic related to their discipline:
– Obesity prevention and control should begin with the monitoring or even shutting down of fast food outlets;
– SA should have a body to control food prices;
– Since eating behaviours evolve during the first years of life, parents should be held directly responsible for the unhealthy eating habits of their children; and
– Schools should take on more responsibility in promoting healthy eating.
Furthermore students had to peer-review each other’s posts and comment constructively. These posts form part of their portfolio for the English for Educational Development module.
“Student discussion has been identified as a key component of interactive online learning environments; both instructors and researchers agree that this is where the ‘real’ learning takes place. Cunningham (1992) emphasizes the importance of interaction in online courses, noting that it is the dialog among community members that promotes learning. According to Lang (cited in Black, 2005), good discussion, whether online or face-to-face, engages participants in a ‘dialogical process that leads to increasingly sound, well grounded, and valid understandings of a topic or issue’ (n.p.). Whereas student discussions typically revolve around personal stories or descriptive content, at least initially, effective discussions progress to include both reflection and critical thinking. When content-specific discussions include these characteristics, they have the potential to motivate student inquiry and to create a learning context in which collaborative meaning-making occurs (Black, 2005)”.