Motivators of Student Contribution in Peer-Facilitated Online Discussion Environments: Additional Findings from Three Case Studies

Motivators of Student Contribution in Peer-Facilitated Online Discussion Environments: Additional Findings from Three Case Studies

Hew Khe Foon (University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/ijopcd.2015010104
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Abstract

Online discussion forums are increasingly being utilized to provide a means for student-to-student interaction in e-learning environments. There is comparatively little research that examines peer-facilitated asynchronous online discussions compared to instructor-facilitated ones. This paper reports three studies on the motivators of student contribution in online discussions conducted within the context of peer-facilitation. These three studies involved the following samples: (a) full-time undergraduates (n = 47), (b) full-time graduates (n = 41), and (c) working adults in corporate settings (n = 62). Cross-comparison of the three studies revealed six major motivators: discussion topic, performance-linked incentive, personal gain, social capital, enjoyment, and response from other participants. Interestingly and contrary to expectations, the most common motivator was not performance-linked incentive such as marks for contribution but (a) the type of discussion topic followed by (b) the types of responses from other participants. Further analyses revealed that more graduate students reported being motivated by personal gain motives compared to undergraduates and working adults, and fewer undergraduates reported being motivated by the enjoyment of the discussion compared to graduates and working adults. More undergraduate and graduate students reported being motivated by marks compared to working adults. Synthesizing the findings of this study and those reported in other previous studies produces a more updated and comprehensive understanding of what motivates students to contribute in peer-facilitated online discussions. Implications of the findings are discussed.
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Literature Review

The role of an online facilitator is traditionally fulfilled by the instructor. While instructors may play an important role in facilitating online asynchronous discussion, not all researchers agree that this might be the best choice. First, not all instructors are able to dedicate the time and energy to facilitate the discussions (Correia & Baran, 2010). Second, a discussion that is instructor-facilitated may result in instructor-centered discussion (Light, Nesbitt, Light, & White, 2000), and limit students’ participation and voice (Zhao & McDougall, 2005).

One possible strategy to circumvent these concerns is to use students or peers to facilitate the discussion. A limited number of researchers have begun to examine the use of peer-facilitation (e.g., Correia & Davis, 2007; Hew et al., 2010; Rourke & Anderson, 2002). The findings of these studies have found that students generally feel more comfortable to vocalise their views, brainstorm ideas, and challenge each other’s ideas in a peer-facilitated discussion environment. In the following section, I briefly summarize findings from these previous studies on what motivates students to contribute in peer-facilitated online discussion forums.

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