Using Word Clouds for Reflection and Discussion in an Online Class

Written by Scott Hamm

Word clouds (Wordle) are those fun & familiar combinations of words that summarize a topic or idea. We’ve seen everywhere from the USA Today to Facebook. They can be used  to promote reflection and synthesis on course content. Here’s how:

  • Syllabus review: have them submit a Wordle to a discussion forum posting the top 10 key concepts.

  • Markers: key issues, policies, theories, etc. from the first three weeks of class, or mid-semester, etc. Let’s you know if the students are grasping course concepts.

  • Quiz:  A fun quiz is to have students post key terms, concepts, ideas, etc. You can set a ten to twelve entries. Then, have them get together in groups or as a class to add to the Word Clouds.  Non-threatening and many enjoy the variation.

More ideas/ resources:

This linked blog post gives you a bunch of word cloud options that includes a how-to-use snippet: 9 Word Cloud Generators That Aren’t Wordle

A brief one-page article demonstrates the use of word clouds in an online graduate class: Hamm, S. (2011). Using Word Clouds for Reflection and Discussion.  Journal of Teaching Theology and Religion, 14 (2).

Assignment example and rubric used in a graduate class in an ACU Higher Education online graduate course.