Facilitating the Chat Room
Throughout the week your students will be reading their curriculum text, assigned reading from other books, pamphlets, web documents or handouts and working on various projects internship activities. Once a week they assemble for a required chat room that lasts approximately two hours.
The role of the eProf in the chat room is to facilitate the discussion and synthesis of the students’ weekly reading. The eProf will not be responsible for preparing a lesson or teaching in the conventional sense but will need to be well read on whatever the student is reading for that course. The eProf will ask questions that compel students to think through, discuss, ask questions or even argue.
Questions should be of a discussion nature and not answerable with a simple “Yes” or “No.” Questions should force students to plumb the depths of what they just learned in the week’s reading and apply that new knowledge to real life. For that reason, it is important that the eProf’s questions utilize case studies or role playing that reflect the realities of ministry. (Example: “In light of what you learned about the grace of salvation, what do you tell someone who adheres to a doctrinal belief that new believers cannot be baptized until they quit smoking? Must they quit smoking? Defend your answer.”)
Never answer the student’s question directly unless there is no alternative. If at all possible, and this is not easy, answer the student’s question with a question or throw the question out to the other students or both. Direct the discussion toward the belief system outlined in the Missionary Church doctrinal statements with follow-up questions. If the other discussing students are not moving toward a correct understanding of the issue and you seem unable to direct it with follow-up questions, then it is necessary to step in and resolve the issue. Use wisdom to determine how long or how far a discussion incorrectly develops so as not to cause confusion. It is helpful to summarize at the close of the discussion or at the end of the chat room, pointing out the flaws in logic or biblical understanding and then reiterating the correct theological or biblical understanding.
At the close of each chat room, remind students of the date and time (including time zone) for the next chat room. You may also want to alert them to the next week’s assignments (“long, difficult, requires web surfing, easy, etc.”).
Chat Room Tips
The following are suggestions and tips given by grizzled chat room veterans — both eProfs and students — that may smooth the learning curve and make you an expert eProf in your first chat room appearance.
- Be prepared for each session . The students seem to relish being challenged to discover ideas they don’t already know. Prepare probing questions to keep them on their toes.
- Keep realistic expectations . Most students have been away from the educational system for a long time. Some may be intimidated by “school” and some by the chat format.
- Announce the discussion theme prior to the chat . This gives the students context for their next chat.
- Have pre-written questions and principles ready . Using a word processor (e.g., MS Word) prepare a series of questions, key principles, relevant quotations, pertinent scriptures, etc. before class. During chat have your word processor open so you can quickly copy and paste pre-written items into the chat window. This saves typing time during class and allows students to better concentrate on what is being discussed.
- Train students to prepare their own questions (and answers to any questions included in the weekly lesson) in advance to copy and paste during class time, too.
- Aspire to brevity . Ask students to keep their answers brief and succinct. Praise those who master that technique, email those who do not and offer suggestions.
- Submit questions to students prior to the chat time . This gives students time to think through answers in advance, create their copy-and-paste answers in a Word document, and spend more time thinking and commenting on classmates’ contributions during chat. This focuses students on the issue instead of on typing skills.
- Assign questions to specific students . As an adaptation to the above technique, you not only submit questions to students prior to the chat, but assign each question to a certain student. This encourages equal participation by everyone.
- Query for comprehension . In the last 15 minutes of the chat, ask the students to “ALL STOP” and then ask each of them to write two to three sentences as a synopsis of what they have gained from that week’s preparation and chat. No one should be permitted to comment a second time until each has submitted an initial response. This helps the eProf understand how each student processed the material so that adjustments can be made for the next class.
- Accessing & Navigating the PLI Portal and Chat Room
- Your course has been created by PLI, and eProfs are provided a basic tutorial for navigating the course site. Course site access for eProfs is different from the students’ access in that it allows the eProf to upload and edit quizzes, modify grades, and other functions. Do not release your login and password to anyone else. If you feel a need to modify any of the material in your course site, please contact PLI for permission first.
Assigning Web Searches & Visits
On occasion it may be valuable for students to surf the web for web sites relevant to the course subject. You may want students to post their newly-discovered web sites and a brief summary on the course site discussion board or in the chat room.
This may also be a way for students to assist the eProf in locating cutting-edge information pertinent to the course subject. In other words, students could be used to help the eProf research for future courses.
Before assigning a web search, make sure the student has enough words or phrases to conduct a reasonably effortless web surf.
If you are assigning a web site visit as part of the student’s research or reading, make sure the web address is accurate and current. Send the web address and assignment for posting on the course web site to PLIadmin@mcusa.org.
Grading Quizzes, Tests and Writing Assignments
Following is the PLI standardized grading scale:
Any student with a final grade below C- will be required to retake the course the next time it is offered.