For Seminars and Discussion-Based Courses

By Stacey M. Johnson, CFT Assistant Director, Vanderbilt

Edited for McNeese Faculty, Dr. Wendi Prater, Director of eLearning, McNeese State University

For anyone trying to move course content online, it can be challenging to translate what they already do well in a face-to-face classroom into an online classroom environment. The most important thing to consider is how to clearly communicate with students about expectations and course requirements. 

For Seminars and Discussion-Based Courses  Read. Journal. Live Discussion On Campus.


In a small seminar, students will probably read one or more resources before class, think through how the materials relate to themselves, to the major themes of the course, and to other course materials. Then, students come to class prepared to make sense of what they have read with the group. There may be a bit of lecture from the professor and a lot of discussion among the seminar participants. 

How would this class format work online? Consider this possible model as a place to start: Read. Journal. Live Discussion Online.

  1. Create several modules in the content area of your Moodle course to contain all the materials and activities for your class meetings. Make sure to name the modules in a way that its contents are easily recognizable to students. Add a description to the module selecting the "Turn editing on" button. Then select the pencil next to the Module name to rename it. To add the description to the module, select the gear icon below the module name and then add the description to the summary text box. Once the module is renamed and the description has been added, outline clearly for students the specific steps they will need to complete the activities in the class meeting by adding activities and resources to the module. What will the need to watch? Read? Complete? Submit? Discuss? etc.
  2. Add any required readings or other materials to your course. You can upload a document or other file by selecting the "Turn editing on" button. At the bottom of each module in Moodle, you will select the "add an activity or resource" link. From this menu, you can link to library resources or online materials like websites. You can also create a quick webcam video recording using BigBlueButton and giving students some of the supplemental information that would normally come out in class. 
  3. Create space for thinking and reflection with a private discussion group for each student or create an assignment where students can submit their answers to prompts about the reading and video before they come to the live class for the discussion. These private submissions can be submitted for a grade in the grade book, or the instructor can just scan them before class to make sure students are all on the right track.
  4. Finally, schedule with Microsoft Teams or BigBlueButton a virtual classroom meeting for the day and time your class normally meets. This will provide your students with a link to enter the virtual classroom space for your class time. We strongly recommend printing off a handy quick start guide on hosting a virtual classroom meeting and keeping it next to you as you host the meeting in case any questions come up.  Instructions and guides are found in the student and faculty knowledgebases on the Moodle taskbar (Faculty Help > Get Help; and also Student Help > Get Help).

In the end, your Moodle course module might look something like this: