Implement Tuning Protocol to Improve Online Discussion Peer Replies and Assignment Quality

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Asynchronous discussions are often utilized in online courses and while they can be effective toward creating and sustaining a learning community, they are not effective if not optimally designed. It can sometimes be difficult for students to converse in a way in which knowledge is co-constructed, and a way in which students can constructively critique each other in order to improve assignments.

Online protocols have been found to be effective in structuring and supporting meaningful learning in online discussions (Zydney, deNoyelles, & Seo, 2012), which can positively impact future class assignments. One protocol is called the Tuning protocol. It reflects the analogy is of tuning a piano – a key is played, and if the sound is flat, adjustments are made until the key is tuned correctly. In this strategy, a student posts his/her work, others provide feedback, and the student then reflects and makes adjustments to the original work.

Link to example artifact(s)

Instructor: Kathie Holland, College of Business, UCF

Course Title: GEB3113: Creativity and Entrepreneurship

In this undergraduate video-streaming course of 400-500 students, a Tuning protocol was incorporated into an online discussion which was focused on a particular class assignment (Business Model). Students engaged in graded online discussions in groups of 10. The discussion was divided in three parts:

  • Part A (Week 8): Students posted their Business Model and then asked group members to consider at least one aspect in which he or she desired feedback.
  • Part B (Week 10): Students chose at least one person in which to provide warm (describe what is working), cool (consider aspects that need work) and/or hard (ask deeper questions that get at the larger aspects of the work) feedback with regards to the first person’s Business Model.
  • Part C (Week 11): Students reflected on the next steps for further developing their Business Model based on peer feedback.

Once the discussion was concluded, the students submitted the Business Model for grading. A survey was conducted about this strategy, and it was found that students agreed that the discussion helped improve not only the Business Model, but also the social dynamics of the group.

For more details about the research on this strategy, please view the PDF linked below.

File:Tuning Protocol.pdf

Link to scholarly reference(s)

Zydney, J. M., deNoyelles, A., & Seo, K. (2012). Creating a community of inquiry in online environments: An exploratory study on the effect of a protocol on interactions within asynchronous discussions. Computers & Education, 58(1), 77–87.


deNoyelles, A., & Chen, B. (2016). Implement tuning protocol to improve online discussion peer replies and assignment quality. In B. Chen & K. Thompson (Eds.), Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository. Orlando, FL: University of Central Florida Center for Distributed Learning.

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