Multilingual students as online course moderators
Thank you for signing up to moderate next week. Moderating is not difficult, but it does take some extra work for the moderators that week. I think many of our moderators for the most part have done a good job this term, so you know.
As moderator, please do NOT start a new thread. Simply post early in the week in one of the existing threads letting everyone know that you will be moderating that thread. Note that you each only need to work in one of the threads in this week’s forum.
You can moderate the conversation in any way you like, but please do the following:
- As I said, write a short post letting everyone know that you'll be moderating the conversation on your thread. Do this early in the week.
- Keep up with what's being written.
- Try to move the conversation forward with questions and new ideas. Basically, your goal is to build the conversation on the thread.
- **At the end of the week, please post a message summarizing the activity on your thread and your participation on it as moderator.**
Again, if you have any questions, please let me know.
As you can see, moderating is a graded assignment. Many student moderators do a superb job, including in their end-of-week wrap-up of their thread. (Some moderators in the first-year writing course I just taught did such a great job that I felt almost intrusive and unnecessary getting involved with their threads.)
Moderating provides teaching advantages, including leveraging teaching time, but, more importantly, it provides many learning opportunities. I wonder if it might particularly help multilingual/ESL students.
There is some debate about the effectiveness of online environments for multilingual writing students. Recently, a multilingual student in my course was straightforward and articulate in describing how the moderating experience helped her in the course and with her writing. In her end-of-week summary (which I quote as is here), she wrote that “as a non-native speaker student, I should take every chance to read, as a way to improve my thinking in English. But in the previous weeks, I failed to force myself to read all the posts because some of them are really long and hard to understand. But as a moderater, it's different. You have to read all the posts and understand them, thun you can ask questions to encourage the discussion going on.”
In this brief metacommentary, the student emphasizes the careful reading and writing she had to do as moderator. She, to me, makes it clear that moderating created a productive pressure for her.
The dialogic exchange of the discussion board and the broadening of audience to include fellow students seem to be what is key here: The inherent written conversation may put productive pressure on students that helps them, as this student says, not just with reading and writing but with thinking through -- rhetorically -- their communicative role in the community of our class.
This is one story, of course, but it may help us think specifically about how moderating -- and similar assignments/roles -- encourages our multilingual learners.