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Designing Weekly Online Graduate Course Discussion And Rubrics For Assessment And Evaluation

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Methods & Techniques in Graduate Education

Tagged Division

Graduate Studies

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.474.1 - 12.474.8



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Paper Authors


S. Balachandran University of Wisconsin-Platteville

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SWAMINATHAN BALACHANDRAN is a Prof. of Ind. Eng., at UW-Platteville and serves as consultant and expert witness. He received BSME degree in 1968, M.E. (Aeronautical Eng.) degree in 1970, and Ph.D. degree in I.E. & O.R. from Va. Tech. in 1984. He has 5 years of industrial experience and 32 years of teaching experience. He is a Fellow of IIE and member of ASEE, INFORMS, SME, ASQ, APICS and HF&ES. He serves as a technical reviewer for the IJPR, IJPPC, and JMPT. He is as an ABET/TAC Commissioner and IIE/ABET program evaluator.

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Lalitha Balachandran Wisconsin Department of Transportation

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LALITHA BALACHANDRAN is an advanced engineer Advanced Engineer at the Division of Transportation System Development - Southwest Region, Wisconsin Department of Transportation, 2101 Wright St, Madison, WI 53704-2583. She is registered as a professional engineer in the state of Wisconsin. She has completed many highway design projects from 1990 to 2007 and is currently in a managerial position.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Designing Weekly Online Graduate Course Discussion and Rubrics for Assessment and Evaluation Abstract

This paper stresses the importance of weekly discussions and provides a framework for designing effective weekly discussions in online graduate-level courses. The framework outlined in this paper is based upon the author’s experience in designing, developing and teaching three graduate-level engineering courses online during the past five years. These courses were MIE 7300 – Design of Experiments, MIE 7430 – Quality Engineering and Management, and MIE 7440 – Taguchi Methods of Robust Design. In these courses discussions were structured to reinforce course materials by requiring students to apply the tools, techniques, models, and other analyses to various aspects of their past or current work and life. This paper discusses how the entire class may be involved in discussions by appropriate design of discussion assignments and presents rubrics for evaluating discussions.


In an online graduate-level course two or more textbooks may be used and breadth and depth of topics are substantial. Lack of face-to-face contact with the instructor makes it difficult for the instructor to get good and timely feedback. If the course is not designed properly, interactions among students seem to be limited in scope and opportunities for students to learn from each other are wasted. More importantly, an instructor has very few options for ensuring that students develop critical thinking skills.

Discussions are extremely important in distance education courses. Tests and assignments from the textbooks are individual activities that do not provide opportunities for to students to learn from each other about applications of course materials in diverse fields. This paper illustrates through examples of discussion assignments how critical thinking skills may be inculcated in students and how the entire class can be involved in learning about real world applications of course materials. These examples show how a discussion topic may be made more interesting to students, how to link course materials to students' work and life experiences, how to get the entire distance education class involved in the discussion topics, and how to structure discussions so that every one in the course learns from the others. Discussions are usually open-ended and if these are not properly designed, students tend not to put much effort into them. The examples in this paper show how it is possible to design open-ended discussions that are very highly structured to provide opportunities for students to reflect on the course materials from an angle that is not in the textbook and other course materials.

The effectiveness of distance education can be enhanced by promoting opportunities for students to exchange ideas. However, students in distance education courses are usually very brief in discussions due to many activities at their jobs and personal lives. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the course developer and designer to create discussions that require students to "think outside the box" and demonstrate critical thinking skills. The structure of discussions and

Balachandran, S., & Balachandran, L. (2007, June), Designing Weekly Online Graduate Course Discussion And Rubrics For Assessment And Evaluation Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--1475

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2007 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015