As a graduate student, over four years I taught 10 sections of MTHED 420: Teaching Mathematics in Elementary Schools. In my first few years as an instructor, I adopted the use of Reading Reflection Journals that had been used by previous instructors of the course. Students created and shared a Google Doc with me so that I could comment on their reflections throughout the semester. While this use of technology allowed me to interact easily with my students outside of the classroom, the journals were not adding much to the course. The students would half-heartedly write them, or write all of them at the end of a unit of study (when they knew I would check for grading purposes). I also did not get much out of reading the same responses over and over again.
In the spring of 2016, I attended a training on Canvas. Aside from the many improvements that Canvas offered over ANGEL (our previous course management system), I was intrigued by the discussion boards. I had engaged with discussion boards as a student (in ANGEL and Blackboard), but not as an instructor. I decided to replace the reading journals with discussion board posts.
Throughout the semester, students responded to 10 discussion board prompts based on readings and were required to reply to at least two other classmates by given due dates. As an instructor, I was able to keep up with the posts, give my own response to my students, and grade all posts quickly using SpeedGrader using a simple rubric.
Canvas discussion boards allowed us to extend our interactions beyond our face-to-face meetings. I saw an increase in participation in class discussion, a deeper understanding of the material, and tailored my lessons to explore ideas brought up in these discussions.