Are your students better than spammers?

While it can be easy to get students to comment on each others’ work, it is not always easy to get them to leave thoughtful, quality comments. Frequently, the student commenters mean well and they try to be encouraging, but their feedback to each other is lacking real substance. They might simply leave a comment like: “nice job, Mike!” or “Interesting post, Debbie!” but add no real value to the discussion.

On this blog, we get bombarded with spam comments every day. They are always nice and usually very generic. Here are a few actual spam comment from this week:

Your blogs usually include a lot of really up to date info. Where do you come up with this? Just declaring you are very imaginative. Thanks again

~Random Spammer selling watches

Thanks for writing this. I really feel as though I know so much more about this than I did before. Your blog really brought some things to light that I never would have thought about before reading it. You should continue this, Im sure most people would agree youve got a gift.

~Random Spammer selling who knows what


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Spammers write comments like these so they can post them on any blog about any topic. There is no real connection to the post itself, just fluff. Often, our student-to-student comments are just as generic as the comments left by spammers. They are nice enough, but very light on substance and lacking any evidence that the course content was absorbed. So how do we create an environment where student comments add value to the conversations in our courses?

One solution would be to make class participation a much larger percentage of the grade. Typically, participation is a minor portion of a student’s grade; maybe 5 or 10 percent. What if participation replaced some of our traditional, formal assessments and made up 70 or 80 percent of their grade? If students were given a rubric explaining the difference between quality and spam and they knew their grade depended on quality interaction, based on deep reading, understanding, research and feedback would that help?

Now, no one who reads this post is going to be graded, but this could be a great opportunity to model quality comments for your students. Are you up to the challenge of leaving a quality comment that adds value to this conversation? Try modeling what you want your students to do below in our comment section. We’d love to know some of your strategies for improving the discourse around your content!