This research is an exploratory study of student variables that mediate collaborative engagement in online discussions. More directly, the research explores what happens in online discussions when four teacher interventions designed to increase collaboration are introduced. The specific aim of the study is increasing collaboration that is ‘externally-revealed’ through engagement with others, especially at the integration level of Garrison, Anderson and Archer’s (2001) practical inquiry model. The secondary aim of the study is to address the problem of serial monologues in student online discussions and participation. The findings yield factors that impact student online collaboration such as student familiarity with the subject matter and with the online medium; purpose and timing of online engagement; importance of face-saving; and student acceptance of the ‘constructed knower’ role. The research sets the stage for future studies of online collaboration from a pedagogical perspective.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Online collaboration: Students referencing, building upon, challenging, integrating, testing, using etc. ideas of fellow discussants in an online discussion forum.
Face-Saving: A need to project an image of strength and knowledge.
Constructed Knowers: Belenky et al.’s (1986) conception of individuals who are committed to the empowerment and improvement in the quality of life and knowledge of others.
Teaching Presence: Three critical functions defined by Anderson, Rourke, Garrison, and Archer (2001) of the online teacher, namely, designing and administrating learning activities, establishing and maintaining an active learning community, and providing direct instruction.
Serial Monologues: Discussions in which online participants freely share experiences and express opinions with minimal effort made to connect to the contributions of others.
Practical Inquiry Model: Garrison et al.’s (2001) theoretical framework that defines the outcomes of collaboration in a higher education online course environment through four phases of critical thinking and cognitive presence, that is triggering, exploration, integration and resolution.
Teaching Interventions: Modifications made to instruction to prompt students to make changes and/or to take a new approach to classroom participation.