Impact of Online Discussions on Web Based Assessments

Impact of Online Discussions on Web Based Assessments

Loreen M. Powell (Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, Bloomsburg, PA, USA), Hayden Wimmer (Department Information Technology, Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, GA, USA), Lawrence Kilgus (Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, Bloomsburg, PA, USA) and Christina M. Force (Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, Bloomsburg, PA, USA)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/IJDET.2017100106
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Abstract

The practice of including online discussion posts to traditional courses is increasing. Online discussions allow for active learning to occur as students express their ideas and respond to others. The time and thought provided by online discussion posts allows students to utilize higher level cognitive skills. Web-based assessments are another technology tool that instructors are including in their courses. This study examined the impact of online discussion posts on achievement of web-based assessments for an upper level undergraduate business and technology writing intensive course. Using a treatment group and a control group, student achievement scores for the online assessments were measured. Results indicate that assessed grades of the treatment groups were higher than the control group, however statistical significance was mixed among the web assessments. The results further illustrate the need for additional research into online discussions applied to web-based assessments.
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Introduction

Online discussions are used as an educational tool for the sharing and collaborating of ideas within a digital format. Online discussions have numerous benefits including enhancing student learning (An, Shin, & Lim, 2009; Andresen, 2009; Cho & Tobias, 2016; Hew & Cheung, 2013; Hrastinski, 2008), facilitating social interaction (Andresen, 2009; Cho & Tobias, 2016; Kehrwald, 2008; Swan & Shih, 2005) improving critical literacy (Bowers-Campbell, 2011; Cho & Tobias, 2016; Forest & Kimmel, 2016), and developing a sense of a learning community (Swan & Shih, 2005). As such, today many instructors who teach face-to-face courses are also including online components such as discussion boards. Rovia and Jordan (2004) found that blended courses, which include face-to-face meetings and online components may prove more successful than traditional or online courses. Owston, York and Murtha (2013) found that the blended learning format is the preferred method for high achieving students. Online discussions allow for active learning to occur from students expressing their ideas electronically while providing more time for thought. Specifically, active learning “provides learners with interactive resources (with which they can engage) to assist their use or knowledge of specific things or concepts” (O’Donnell, Lawless, Sharp & Wade, 2015, p. 23). Online discussions foster active learning through increased participation in discussions because all students are required to participate unlike face to face discussions (Hara, Bonk and Angeli, 2000). Specifically, online discussions permit students to partake in collective knowledge sharing (Cho & Tobias, 2016). Through the collaborative knowledge sharing and building processes, students may become reflective, critical thinkers, and content learners (Hew & Cheung, 2013).

Furthermore, online discussions have been found to be one of the most effective instructional tools utilized in the blended environment (Lim, Morris & Kupritz, 2007). Research has found the content of online discussion to be more in depth and causes students to utilize higher level cognitive skills (Hara et al., 2000). In a recent study by Forest and Kimmel (2016) regarding critical literacy performance in online discussions found online discussion to be helpful with critical literacy understanding. They suggest to better ensure student understanding of classroom materials with online discussions an assessment may be needed. Thus, the assessment will “help gauge students’ knowledge of critical literacy” (p. 293).

Currently, there has not been a study that has examined the impact of student online discussions upon assessments. Furthermore, many of the existing studies regarding online discussions have been based on correlation analyses and have been conducted without control and experimental groups (Cho & Tobias, 2016). This study seeks to examine the effects in which online student discussions have on web based assessments via control and treatment groups. The motivation is to improve student scores on web-based assessments through the implementation of online discussions. This work has practical implications for faculty using online discussions. The remainder of this paper is structured as follows: a brief review of online learning and web-based assessments, the methodology, results, conclusions and limitations.

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