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History of Science Online

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LibraryThing: OU History of Science Collections HSCI 3013 - section 995 - Spring 2014

Discussion Board Etiquette

Getting to know each other. Take a moment to notice the person that you are responding to -- get to know their names at Desire2Learn or their nicknames at Confluence. Each comment on the Discussion Board is coming from a real person, so remember that there is always a real person on the receiving end of what you are writing.

In an online course, somedays it may seem that you are working alone, in isolation in front of a computer. But it's not true: this course is designed to maximize student to student interaction! So when you feel out of touch, make a change happen by relating to others on the discussion boards. Many students find student-to-student interaction on the discussion boards to be one of their favorite aspects of the course!

IMPORTANT: When you reply to someone on the Discussion Board at Confluence or at D2L, please say "Hi Jessica" or "Hi Zeus" or whatever their name/nickname might be. That is the only way you will really start to learn the names of the people in the class!

Sharing ideas and opinions. Please say what you think in the discussion boards, and don't worry about whether everyone agrees with you. The point of the Discussion Board is to share your ideas and opinions, not to prove to others that you are right and that they are wrong. It is an opportunity for real give and take, and for listening as well as talking. Differences of opinion are going to occur in any forum -- that's a good thing! Oftentimes you will be discussing issues where there are no clear-cut, right-or-wrong, factual kinds of answers. By openly sharing your ideas on the meaning and significance of events for science you can deepen your understanding. You will find opportunities for talking with others who share the same point of view, and (what is often even more valuable) with others who see matters from a different perspective that is new to you. The purpose of the discussion board is to share ideas; it is not a forum for ranting. No one truly understands an issue until they can understand why reasonable people hold to the contrary views, and sympathetically step into someone else's shoes. So there will be many opportunities to "agree to disagree."

Basic courtesy evident in the tone. Communicating in writing is very, very tricky, because it's really hard to be understood clearly without the aid of body gestures, tone, voice inflections, and all the forms of nonverbal communication we take for granted in face to face conversations! This is the reason why everyone needs to make a special effort in online communications to be courteous. Courtesy and respect are not optional on the discussion boards; they are as important a part of communication as the content or point of view you want to express. Just remember that your readers may initially imagine you writing with a scowl; how can you frame your posts so that they will instead hear you speaking with a soft voice, and recognize that you have a twinkle in your eye? You might find it helpful to read your posting out loud before you submit it: is the "tone" you intend obvious from the words alone?

Reporting problems. If you find something on the Discussion Board that strikes you as upsetting or unacceptable in either tone or content, please be sure to let me know about it as soon as possible (send an email to kmagruder@ou.edu). Usually this kind of thing is the result of some kind of accident or misunderstanding, and I will make sure that it gets cleared up as soon as possible -- so please let me know right away if something has been posted on the discussion board that you believe is inappropriate for a class discussion.

Reading and replying. Very often people will read postings on a Discussion Board but not make a reply. So if no one responds to one of your stories or one of your essays, please do not take it as some sort of snub. Usually every messages gets at least one reply, but many people (including me!) read the posts without necessarily posting a reply.

Note: I always read each and every Reflection. However, to preserve the environment for student-to-student interaction, I rarely post comments to the Interpretation essays. So you are writing for each other, not for me. On any given week, I will read at least one third of them to get a sense of the ongoing conversations that have started. Send me an email if you want me to be sure to read your Interpretation on any given week!


"As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one." Mike Godwin, Godwin's Law

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HSCI 3013. History of Science to 17th centuryCreative Commons license
Kerry Magruder, Instructor, 2004
Brent Purkaple, TA

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Many thanks to the pedagogical model developed in Mythology and Folklore and other online courses by Laura Gibbs, which have been an inspiration for this course.

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This course is currently undergoing major reconstruction to bring it into alignment with the new version of the course at Janux