Thoughts, writing & snippets

Marguerite Koole, PhD

Identity Accelerator #7: The Virtual Nod

mkoole, · Categories: Educational technology, Identity, Teaching


Having moved from Athabasca University (AU) to the University of Saskatchewan (UofS), I have had to switch learning management systems (LMSs). At AU, I used Moodle. Here at the UofS, I use Blackboard. There are a few Moodle plugins that I miss. The Moodle plugin that I miss the most is Marginalia ( Marginalia is an annotations tool that allows students and instructors to highlight segments of each others’ discussion forum messages and write notes. The annotations can be private or public.

In a face-to-face classroom and, to an extent, in synchronous online conferencing environments, we can indicate agreement, disagreement, attentiveness, boredom, acknowledgment, and a multitude of other messages through body language. We often look at each other when talking and nod in some fashion. In an asynchronous, online environment, we cannot easily know when others are reading our messages, whether others are engaged with our comments, whether or not they agree or disagree with our opinions. When we read others’ responses to our messages, we can begin to decipher their level of interest. But, if no one replies there is simply no ready indication of interest. (An instructor can review the log files to see who has read what, but normally log files are not usually available to students.)

Marginalia allows instructors and students to give each other a “virtual nod”. As an instructor, I used to use it heavily to highlight interesting, fun, and substantive comments from the students. Without it, I often use the reply feature—which can make the discussions grow in length. Before with Marginalia, I would end a discussion and provide a link to a summary page that Marginalia automatically produced. Without Marginalia, right now, I do the summaries manually.

Students can also use Marginalia. Their use of it would help them to communicate to their level of interest. During a discussion, they can curate interesting ideas and quotes from their classmates. And, after the discussion has ended, they can more easily review what their classmates have said. This serves not only an academic purpose, but also an identity-development purpose. Students can find evidence of whose comments they tend to annotate the most. And, if the annotations are public, students can also see who annotates their own contributions. This can add extra identity, status or bonding dimensions to the development of community.





Instructor responsibilities



Absolutely 5 full stars. I have asked our administrators to look into adding an annotations tool to our LMS. When teaching at AU, the students consistently commented on how much they appreciated the annotations summaries.



Note: for an introduction to identity accelerators for online teaching and learning visit this entry.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *