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Discussion forum response (10%)

Discussion Forum Response

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Due Date: Each week you must post a response to ONE topic by Friday @ 23:59. No late submissions are accepted.

Size limit: No specific word count; see under Due Dates section below for details of posting frequency.

Submission: Posts made to Discussion Forums on Wattle or through the Greenbook.

Collaboration: Nil. These individual submissions must be entirely your own work.

Purpose: As part of learner-centred instruction, courses in RSM include self-reflective tasks that develop skills in critical analysis and meta-cognition (thinking about thinking). Critical analysis assists the student to understand and internalise the skills and knowledge; meta-cognitive skills help learners realize, develop, and reflect on their own approach to their thinking and the learning outcomes. Discussion Forums offer students the opportunity to exercise and develop these skills and so enhance their attainment of the learning outcomes week by week.

Note that the grading of this assignment reflects the expectation that students will improve over the semester.



Description: Weekly online discussion of case studies and reflection on personal experiences from the perspective of the week’s learning materials, and the course learning outcome/s addressed by the topic/s of the week.


Discussion Forum Example

Note: this comes from a course with different expectations for using the discussion forum but it is a good introduction as to what a discussion can look like.

Have a look at the following example of a forum thread (it’s made up, of course).

 You might like to use the Expectations in the Brief to score each of the posts and responses

 (hint: some are stronger than others, and none of them are perfect).

Alex:  I’m with Karen[1]! I shouldn’t have to wear a mask if I don’t want to. What if people have asthma or breathing problems? That wouldn’t be fair.

Bob:  I agree with you, Alex. I immediately thought of being out and about and seeing everyone wearing a mask. People who are deaf may need to lip-read, which would not be possible if everyone is wearing masks. The government’s proposal is an example of noise in the communication process (Shannon & Weaver 1949). In that model noise is seen as coming from outside the sender, but this is a case where the sender is introducing the noise by using trigger words like “mandatory”.


Shannon, C & Weaver, W 1949, The Mathematical Theory of Communication, University of Illinois Press.

Courtney: I was putting the children to bed after I heard that on the news and that got me thinking about how masks would affect me as a teacher. I worked in South Korea teaching English to young children. I was only going to stay for 6 months but it was really interesting and I stayed on for several years and so I was there for three winters, and its really cold there and every winter there would be lots of people wearing masks if they had a flu or a cold or a cough. It was really difficult for me teaching, because if a child was wearing a mask I couldn’t see their face and so I didn’t know whether they were coping with the work or whether they were upset. And sometimes I couldn’t hear them properly either and that was really difficult when we were working on pronunciation or there was a test. One winter I had a cold and I was wearing a mask as well, and that that made it much worse, because I would say something and some of the children couldn’t hear me properly and thought I said something else, and so they would reply to what they heard. Then I would not be able to hear them properly because they had a mask on and so I would reply to what I thought they said, and then they wouldn’t hear that properly and would answer the question they thought I asked, but this time they were thinking about what they thought they heard was the first question and so when they answered it was to two things mis-heard, and so on…and by the time we had been around two or three question and answers the kids would be talking about something completely different! Looking back it was quite funny but it was a bit stressy at the time….

David: Good point, Bob. Shannon and Weaver is a great model; we use it in computing studies.

Eric: I’m thinking about this in terms of Barnlund’s (2008) transactional model, because the Government is actually needing a 2-way conversation with the community to make a deal with us so we will do the mask-wearing. The government started the discussion with a highly emotive Behavioural Cue by using the word “mandatory”. That has triggered Private Cues such as Courtney’s personal experience and my own similar experience in Japan that are leading us to think and speak negatively about the proposal, just as Alex is. If masks are made mandatory then Public Cues such as seeing people in masks will re-inforce that, but for now the debate has ground to a halt because of all the negative Private Cues in the community. The lack of follow-up from the government makes me think that it has detected that negative emotion in the community but doesn’t know what to do to get the debate back on track. But that’s not really evidence! What I’m not sure about is what the model can tell us about how to resolve the situation.


Barnlund, D. (2008). A transactional model of communication. In. C. D. Mortensen (Eds.), Communication theory (2nd ed., pp47-57).           New Brunswick, New Jersey.

David: Thank you Alex, for going first this week. Thinking about the question brought Karen’s outburst about masks to my mind as well. Her response was very strongly emotional and a great example of how what we feel informs our judgement! But that has me wondering about the concept of display rules (Grandey et al. 2010) because while those rules control the way that emotions are expressed in different circumstances or contexts, it seems to me that one of the problems with that idea is that circumstances and contexts seem to be thought about as being very present and real, so they give immediate cues to the individual about which display rule will be invoked. Whereas neither “Government” nor social media are immediately present in any concrete way, and so maybe Karen’s outburst could be understood as being emotions displayed in a situation with no clear display rules yet. The ubiquity of social media make this a significant omission because there is a feedback loop between social media and community opinion (“bubbles”) that may make resolving such communication crises much more difficult than in the past.

David: Good question, Eric. Maybe we could start at the other end, by asking why the government used the term “mandatory”? What were they trying to achieve? A sense of strong leadership? or a clear sense of direction? Or was it just a mistake?

Courtney: Thank you Eric. That’s easy to understand and very clear. I hadn’t thought about it like that but I know in the notes it says that emotions are important to acceptance of messages from leaders, and I guess that’s exactly what we are seeing. The message hasn’t been accepted because the negative emotions are sabotaging the situation (Wang et al 2012). Would the transformational leadership behaviours we looked at last week help here?

Courtney: Hi there, Bob. I understand what you are saying about the noise. I guess if the noise is coming from the sender then the noise is under their control. I’m not sure that helps Eric’s question.

Eric: Thank you Courtney. I’m not sure it does, either. On another note, I had a very similar experience to yours when I was working in Japan. As Bob puts it, the noise in both our cases is coming from the sender.  I wonder what you did to manage it?

Alex: Thanks, guys. I did actually think of Karen when I heard the government’s proposal but reading your posts gave me time to think about the communication models, and which ones can explain or generate emotional responses to communication like that. The government seems to have used a Shannon and Weaver (1949) approach in their initial communication, thinking that the transmission was pretty linear, and Barnlund (2008) explains what went wrong very clearly. But thinking about it now, Craig (1999) proposes that, rather than transmitting ideas, communication constructs the ideas and creates meaning from all elements of the interaction. People sometimes feel threatened by new ideas and meanings, so that could trigger emotional responses, but as a generative process maybe this could also provide a way forward. We could as a community re-construct the meaning of the term “mandatory mask wearing” so that it feels less threatening.

Reference List:

Barnlund, D 2008, ‘A transactional model of communication’, In. C. D. Mortensen (Eds.), Communication theory (2nd ed), pp.47-57,           New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Craig, RT, 1999, ‘Communication Theory As A Field’, Communication Theory, vol.9, no.2, pp.119-161.           doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2885.1999.tb00355.x

Shannon, C & Weaver, W 1949, The Mathematical Theory of Communication, University of Illinois Press.



[1] For those overseas, “Bunning’s Karen” is a woman in Australia who visited a store in the Bunnings chain and objected strongly to being required to wear a mask. There is footage on social media


Parts 1 and 3: Grading Rubric


The forums are an avenue for a professional conversation, and so need to be professional and respectful. That means few or no errors of spelling, grammar, and sentence and paragraph structure. But as they form a conversation an informal style is appropriate. Similarly, use of first person (“I”, “me”) is expected as it is necessary if you are to discuss your personal or professional experience/s.

As they are written they may include tables, figures, images, citations, etc. These can enhance your discussion with more depth. They can help you to write with more impact if they encapsulate and present your ideas in fewer words.  If you have used any then the usual standards of presentation of such supplementary material in written communication should be met, including captions and/or a list of references at the end if you have cited any articles.

As they make up a conversation the number of posts and timeliness are important. A conversation dies unless it is maintained. If your posts are late, others will not be able to respond to you on time, and vice versa. And responding late will mean you do not keep up with the conversation. A schedule is provided in the Class Summary, but all posts are due by Friday @ 23:59pm (Online Discussion Forums require 1 response to a case post and a reply; Workshop Discussions require 1 person from each in-class group to post the work sheet by the end of class and all group members to post a reply).


Structure & Coherence: Face-to-face conversation allows speakers to provide gestures, tone of voice, feedback, and correction to each other to clarify their meaning. This is not as easy in writing. So structure is critical in ensuring that your message gets through to the other participants.

Before you start writing, take a couple of minutes to think about relevant personal or professional experience/s and outline them in your head. That will make them clear to you, so you will not need to write simply to bring the experience/s to mind , Then look at the scope of the question or mini-case and the key concept/s implicit in the topic. You can then structure your writing around them rather than around your own experience/s. Think also about the evidence that you could supply to support your discussion.

Very short posts of a couple of sentences are unlikely to have sufficient depth. Very long posts of several hundred words are not required to address the topics, and generally happen when the discussion of personal experience simply unfolds the details of the experience in chronological order without prior thought or further analysis or synthesis.


Responsiveness: The posts contribute to a conversation with others, and so should be respectful and supportive. However, the conversation is not a personal catch-up, but is on professional topics. So responses to others need to do more than just agree with the other person. You do need to acknowledge their experience and their point, but also expand further on the line of thinking and perhaps integrate thinking from other people’s remarks or other course concepts. These responses to others are likely to be shorter and less structured than your posts of your own thoughts.

Learning & Application:

Discussion forums enable you to discuss the concepts, models, and processes, that are presented in the course and to integrate them into your own thinking. So understanding your own personal or professional experience/s is important as a starting point, but we are also looking for you integrate those experiences with the course concepts. Understanding your experiences as instances of the models or processes allows you to stand back from the experiences, learn from them, and embed your understanding of the concepts.

Practice at applying the concepts to real-world situations will also develop your capacity to continually learn from your experiences long after you leave formal study.



When you reflect on your own personal or professional experience it is not enough to just tell the story.

· You need to analyse it and develop a strategy for presenting it and making sense of it.  One possible strategy is to structure it around parts of the relevant course topic or concepts. A one-sentence statement of how you will present and analyse the experience in the light of the topic, or vice versa, forms a clear introduction to your post that will help the reader understand it.

· You also need to consider what evidence or counter-examples you can provide to justify your analysis. It will likely be from academic sources and may simply be represented by a citation (no need for lots of words). A one-sentence analysis of the reliability and validity of the evidence you provide will assist the reader to understand how it fits in to making sense of your post and of the situation.

These analytic skills and skills in searching the library will be useful throughout your academic studies at ANU, as well as in your professional career.


No model or concept is a complete explanation. You may find your personal or professional experiences do not precisely fit the models or processes being discussed in the course. Or you might identify weaknesses in the models or processes taught. Or different ideas and interpretations may be proposed by different people in the forum. So you could look for other relevant concepts to incorporate and further understand the situation.

· further reading of academic literature on the topic through the ANU library, or

· you might draw on concepts from earlier topics in the course, or

· consider ideas in other courses you are studying at ANU

You may be able to draw these together into a coherent whole. You might also find research results that support your synthesis of concepts, ideas, and/or other people’s posts.

Practice at this kind of integrative thinking will assist you when you face messy real-world organisational situations that are best understood by applying multiple models or concepts.

Expectations of forum posts

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