Virtual Communities ‘Group Discussions’: An Australian Teaching and Learning Perspective
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This paper provides an Australian perspective on teaching and learning using virtual communities, mainly ‘e.g. group discussions’. Understanding the increased importance of technology, Curtin Business School (CBS) has undertaken to improve and enhance teaching and learning facilities aimed at students enrolled for degrees via various modes i.e. internal, external and fully online. Currently, CBS uses the Blackboard Course Management Software (Blackboard) to provide course materials to students, which allows the development of virtual communities ‘e.g. group discussions’. Using this software, the aim is to enhance students’ teaching and learning abilities. This is principally achieved through either replacing traditional teaching amenities at CBS by technologically advanced medium, or allowing both media to work side by side aiming at the enhancement of students’ learning experience. The Blackboard software has various approaches in assisting students interacting and sharing their knowledge and ideas with students, and simultaneously with teaching staff through virtual communities ‘e.g. group discussions.’Group Discussions forums have provided various benefits to students and lectures providing teaching staff the chance to examine their students’ work using this interface. Students’ online work includes their interactions (i.e. student/student) and provides the teaching staff the opportunity to monitor students’ progress. This paper outlines the benefits, challenges, impacts and implications of using group discussions from two teaching staff at two different schools at CBS of Curtin University. The university uses this approach in their undergraduate and postgraduate courses, both internal, external, and fully online providing ideas that might be applied to further enhance the strength of this medium. However, this paper focuses mainly on undergraduate discussion boards, with one concentrating on a mixed approach (i.e. face-to-face and virtual), while the other (being external mode) was only through the use of Blackboard.
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