Assessing Online Discussion Forum Participation

Assessing Online Discussion Forum Participation

Matthew Shaul (Kennesaw State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-150-6.ch018
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As a socially constructive learning tool, discussion forums remain central to online education. They have continued to evolve in functionality, acquiring ever-increasing usability features. However, development has lagged in providing instructors the means to assess student work in forums. The author submits an overview of his software program that provides instructors with the means to evaluate forum work quickly, easily, and repeatedly. The software accomplishes this by accessing the forums’ underlying database, searching for manifest and latent data, and calculating data associated with an array of metrics. This is a Web-based tool built on Open Source and standards-based languages, providing opportunities to port the program to numerous Learning Management Systems. It is the intention of this author to provide this tool, when completed, for such use as a free, Open Source tool. Interested parties may e-mail the author for progress updates. Currently, however, further work on the project must await the completion of another project, the author’s dissertation.
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Learning management systems (LMS) continue receiving expanded toolsets and quickly assimilating new Web-technologies to provide users an increasingly interactive, richer experience. Chat, streaming media, “blogs,” “video-casting,” and “podcasting” found their way into online educational settings soon after being generally accepted on the Internet. Yet, discussion forums, an old (in Internet time) technology, seemingly remain the core from which many instructors build online classes. These technological descendants from long-ago bulletin boards and listservs, one of the earliest tools integrated into online education, remain central to the design and success of many distance education courses.

More so than the newer technologies, discussion forums approximate a replacement for the give-and-take of the brick-and-mortar experience, mimicking many-to-many discussions found in traditional classrooms. In addition, the recognizable conversational structure reflected visually in the tree-like output, simplicity and flexibility of the tool likely contribute to its continued success and acceptance, granting users an immediate sense of familiarity. The importance of such comforting effects cannot be discounted, especially in a field still relatively new.

Discussion Questions

However, despite the history and wide, though not full, acceptance of the importance and use of forums, lack of awareness on how best to use them persists. Note that this unawareness does not pertain to the implementation of forums, or designing them to encourage adoption. In fact, Markel (2001) notes that forums have developed beyond simple, plain text message boxes, incorporating emoticons, HTML formatting, images, and hyperlinks to provide a more enticing tool to draw students into their use. Yet, while these features encourage participation, there is no clear way for instructors trying to devise effective forum evaluation schemes.

This article, therefore, examines forum technology assessment. Given the importance of assessment in learning, it is apparent that such a widely used distance leaning tool must provide instructors with sound options for evaluating student work. Moreover, effective assessment options, with associated feedback, provide the added benefit of encouraging an increase in student postings, thus adding to the forums’ potency. Yeh (2005) notes that student participation increases as instructors place an importance on posting by assigning grades to forum use. This is unsurprising, as one would expect graded assignments to garner more attention from students than non-graded activities. Swan (2001) finds this true as students calculate reward versus effort when determining whether to participate in forums. Forums with a larger percentage of influence on grades receive more use. However, while most LMS do provide instructors some means of forum assessment, current tools remain either overly limited or too time consuming to use.

Complete Chapter List

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Table of Contents
Chapter 1
Mara H. Washburn
Many Western nations face a critical shortage of skilled professionals in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). However, despite... Sample PDF
Media and Women in Technology
Chapter 2
David Gefen, Nitza Geri, Narasimha Paravastu
Threaded discussions are one of the central tools of online education. These tools enhance student learning and compensate for the lack of social... Sample PDF
The Gender Communication Gap in Online Threaded Discussions
Chapter 3
Princely Ifinedo
In this study, we investigate the influence of two external influences i.e., Ease of finding and Computer anxiety on the technology acceptance model... Sample PDF
The Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) and the Continuance Intention
Chapter 4
Thanakorn Wangpipatwong
In this article, the study of how a constructivist e-learning system affects students’ learning outcomes was explored and a two-phase study was... Sample PDF
The Influence of Constructivist E-Learning System on Student Learning Outcomes
Chapter 5
Andreas Wiesner-Steiner, Heike Wiesner, Heidi Schelhowe, Petra Luck
This article presents substantial results from two projects that deal with teaching and learning with digital media in basic and higher education... Sample PDF
The Didactical Agency of Information Communication Technologies for Enhanced Education and Learning
Chapter 6
Daniel J. Shelley
E-learning and e-pedagogy continues to grow in importance in the delivery of higher education, due in part to the cost of higher education, a... Sample PDF
Comparative Analyses of Online and Traditional Undergraduate Business Law Classes: How Effective is E-Pedagogy?
Chapter 7
Ido Millet
Data Flow Diagrams and Use Cases are two popular methodologies in teaching as well as in practice. For the last 4 years, we have been using both... Sample PDF
Student Perceptions of Data Flow Diagrams vs. Use Cases
Chapter 8
Hong Lin
Agent-oriented design has become one of the most active areas in the field of software engineering. The agent concept provides a focal point for... Sample PDF
Promoting Undergraduate Education with Agent Based Laboratory
Chapter 9
Tony Jewels, Rozz Albon
For optimum workplace effectiveness in knowledge-intensive industries in which principles of knowledge management need to be applied, it is... Sample PDF
Supporting Arguments for Including the Teaching of Team Competency Principles in Higher Education
Chapter 10
Lawrence Tomei
This article helps classroom teachers create an “Interactive Lesson,” a self-paced, student-controlled, individualized learning opportunity embedded... Sample PDF
Creating an Interactive PowerPoint Lesson for the Lesson
Chapter 11
Chris Thompson, Zane L. Berge
This chapter briefly profiles three virtual schools, each at a different stage of development, yet each dependent upon a successful and sustained... Sample PDF
Planning Staff Training for Virtual High Schools
Chapter 12
MarySue Cicciarelli
Research shows that training prospective online instructors in an online learning environment is advantageous. One effective training topic is on... Sample PDF
Training Prospective Online Instructors: Theories Utilized by Current Online Instructors
Chapter 13
Michael Fedisson, Silvia Braidic
Seventh grade students were tested on their knowledge of sentences and nouns in a language arts classroom. This study was conducted over a two-year... Sample PDF
The Impact of PowerPoint Presentations on Student Achievement and Student Attitudes
Chapter 14
Henry H. Emurian
Information systems students in a graduate section and an undergraduate section of an introductory Java graphical user interface course completed... Sample PDF
Teaching Java™: Managing Instructional Tactics to Optimize Student Learning
Chapter 15
John DiMarco
This research project investigated the existence of web portfolios on academic websites in New York State. It cites disappointing results when... Sample PDF
Toward an Increase in Student Web Portfolios in New York Colleges and Universities
Chapter 16
Marianne Döös, Eva R Fåhræus, Karin Alvemark, Lena Wihelmson
Conducting a dialogue on the Web is a matter of linking thoughts in digital conversations. Dialogue differs from discussion by not being aimed at... Sample PDF
Competent Web Dialogues: Text-Based Linking of Thoughts
Chapter 17
Jeffrey Hsu
A number of new communications technologies have emerged in recent years which were originally used primarily for personal and recreational... Sample PDF
Employing Interactive Technologies for Education and Learning: Learning-Oriented
Chapter 18
Matthew Shaul
As a socially constructive learning tool, discussion forums remain central to online education. They have continued to evolve in functionality... Sample PDF
Assessing Online Discussion Forum Participation
Chapter 19
Solomon Negash, Michelle Emerson, John Vandegrieft
An empirical analysis was conducted to compare synchronous hybrid e-Learning environment with traditional classrooms. Empirical study with 165... Sample PDF
Synchronous Hybrid E-Learning: Empirical Comparison with Asynchronous and Traditional Classrooms
Chapter 20
Diane Hui, Donna L. Russell
Effectiveness of professional development is affected by the quality of social interaction. This study examines how online collaborative dialogues... Sample PDF
Understanding the Effectiveness of Collaborative Activity in Online Professional Development with Innovative Educators through Intersubjectivity
Chapter 21
Silvia Braidic
Teaching is a complex activity that involves careful preparation, delivery and reflection. As an educator, it is essential to create a sense of... Sample PDF
Effective Questioning to Facilitate Dynamic Online Learning
Chapter 22
Cindy S. York
This article briefly reviews two important goals in online education: interaction and presence. These are important goals in online education... Sample PDF
Transitioning from Face-to-Face to Online Instruction: How to Increase Presence and Cognitive/Social Interaction in an Online Information Security Risk Assessment Class
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