Online Learner Views of Asynchronous Discussions as a Predictor of Final Grades

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Brief Abstract

Discussion boards have come to be a backbone of the online learning experience. According to Ding (2017), the potential benefits of asynchronous online discussion include positive outcomes such as thoughtful and reflective interaction among peers through increased engagement between participants, resulting in a bolstering of active learning.  However, only when students fully engage in the discussion activity, can the aforementioned benefits be realized. Regretfully, challenges of low participation rates and shallow discourse are frequently reported by online faculty (Hew & Cheung, 2012).

This session presents the results of contemporary research considering online discussion boards, including the results of the 2019 investigation that reviewed weekly online course discussion analytics in relation to overall online learner performance. In particular, the study considered whether there is a correlation between individual involvement in weekly discussions (as determined by their direct viewing of the posts of their classmates) and the resulting final grade in the course.

 

Presenters

'An educator by choice, not chance,' Dr. Jeffrey Bailie’s entire career has been in the fields of education and behavioral sciences. Over the past 38 years, he has taught in a variety of learning environments ranging from the middle school grades to the doctoral level of instruction, both on-ground and online, in domestic and international settings. He has also held various administrative appointments in higher learning including tenure as the Dean Online Instruction, Director of Distance Learning Operations, Dean of Curriculum and Instruction, Director of Assessment, and Director of Admissions. But his true passion is in online teaching, having taught more than 300 online courses through a variety of academic institutions over the past two decades. Dr. Bailie holds his Bachelors of Science degree in Secondary Education, a Master’s of Education degree in Curriculum and Instruction, and a Doctorate of Education degree in Instructional Technology and Distance Education. His areas of specialization include Web-based instructional design, evaluation and assessment, and online faculty training, mentoring, and supervision. Areas of published research have included online end-user authentication and analytics, validation of online instructor competencies, online instructional expectations, and the influence of instructional expectation, immediacy, and engagement on online student motivation and persistence.

Extended Abstract

Discussion boards have come to be a backbone of the online learning experience. According to Ding (2017), the potential benefits of asynchronous online discussion include positive outcomes such as thoughtful and reflective interaction among peers through increased engagement between participants, resulting in a bolstering of active learning.  However, only when students fully engage in the discussion activity, can the aforementioned benefits be realized. Regretfully, challenges of low participation rates and shallow discourse are frequently reported by online faculty (Hew & Cheung, 2012).

Described by many as "the heart of the virtual classroom," online discussions are designed to promote opportunities for learners to engage with remotely placed classmates and the instructor, encouraging participants to demonstrate their command of the assigned topic, reflect on their own experiences, and share personal insights.  But when learners open only a few of the messages posted by fellow participants, they are (in effect) marginalizing the intent of the mutual learning experience.  One might speculate that limited viewing of the contributions made by members of the online learning group inhibits the desired benefit of full collegial engagement, which in turn might impede learner performance…. or does it?

This session presents the results of contemporary research considering online discussion boards, including the results of the 2019 investigation that reviewed weekly online course discussion analytics in relation to overall online learner performance. In particular, the study considered whether there is a correlation between individual involvement in weekly discussions (as determined by their direct viewing of the posts of their classmates) and the resulting final grade in the course.

Ding, L. (2017).  Student engagement in online discussions through a gamified approach (Doctoral dissertation, University of Georgia).  Retrieved from https://getd.libs.uga.edu/pdfs/ding_lu_201708_phd.pdf

Hew, K. F. & Cheung, W. S. (2012) Student participation in online discussions: Challenges, solutions, and future research”, Springer: New York.

Hew, K. F., Cheung, W. S. & Ng, C. S. L. (2010). Student contribution in asynchronous online discussion: A review of the research and empirical exploration. Instructional Science, 38(6), pp. 571-606.

Zhang, X. (2016). An analysis of online students’ behaviors on course sites and the effect on learning performance: A case study. Online Classes Journal of Education for Library and Information Science, 57(4), pp. 255-270. DOI:10.12783/issn.2328-2967/57/4/1

Learning outcomes for this session include:

1. Analyzing the findings from the literature, participants will gain an appreciation for the results of some past investigations that centered on learner participation in online discussion activities. 

2. Through a guided discussion, participants will examine how being mindful of individual learner access (including the use of LMS analytics) can serve to increase discussion participation in their own classrooms, with corresponding gains in student learning.

2.  Participants will engage in a series of problem base learning activities that purposefully designed to elicit responses reflective of best practices in online discussion facilitation.