MERLOT Conference 2009 – San Jose

Conference Presentation Preview: From Chit Chat to Discourse

Posted in Session by Dorothy Fuller on June 16, 2009

I teach graduate courses in education. Many of the issues we study come in the form of ill-defined problems, and discussion is one tool to clarify issues, work toward common understanding, and use the combined knowledge, experience and energy of a like-minded community to address possible solutions. In the online environment where my classes take place, this kind of communication happens in an asynchronous threaded discussion. The ongoing written conversation can result in a dynamic presentation of clear thinking written in well constructed sentences of well chosen words, but it usually doesn’t. Many participants are uncertain of the quality of their offerings, both in terms of the strengths and the weaknesses of those postings. Even with rubrics and exemplars, they seem to struggle with finding the magic balance of examining a topic, supporting the community and maintaining economy of effort.

As I searched for ways of providing more and better feedback and encouragement to students, I found that the participant rating tools now found in many learning management systems provide another way of addressing the value of every posting in its ability to support understanding and learning for all those engaged in the discussion. 

  • Students reach agreement on specific characteristics of discussion postings that both help and hinder their learning.
  •  Students then use the rating system to identify postings that were helpful to their learning and those that were not by awarding stars as they read each one.
  • Writers are then asked to review and rate their own work and to compare their ratings with those received by the class as a whole.
  • Students are also asked to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of both the top star winners and their own writings, to compare the results, and to set goals for increasing their own ratings throughout the course.

In “From Chit Chat to Discourse: Improving Online Discussion” I will share how students in two different classes used this system, what they liked and did not like about it, and how they used it to increase the quality of their own discussion participation. I will also ask others to share their innovative and effective strategies for increasing discussion quality.


MIC 09 – San Jose, California

Posted in Conference Info by janepmoore on June 3, 2009

MIC 09

The planning committee has been gearing up for the MERLOT International Conference in San Jose, California, August 13-16, Teaching and Learning in a Networked World.

Our keynoters:  John Wilbanks from Creative Commons; Wade Ellis, representing our featured disciplines, Math and Statistics; and Carl Berger, an old friend of the MERLOT community, will wow you each morning at the plenary sessions.

Additionally, you’ll find a variety of sessions geared toward faculty members, administrators, librarians, professional developers and others in the K-12 to higher education communities.  The MIC is a great place to network, both figuratively and literally.  We are looking forward to exciting pre-conference sessions as well as a host of workshops, presentations, and learning circles that will encourage you to think about technology and its impact on learning.  Be sure to register for the conference at  You can access information about hotel and travel arrangements at

Jane Moore, Conference Chair

Welcome to 2009 MERLOT International Conference Blog

Posted in Conference Info by janepmoore on June 1, 2009

Members of MERLOT will use this blog to let others know more about the 2009 MERLOT International Conference.