Students' Learning in Asynchronous Discussion Forums: A Meta-Analysis

Students' Learning in Asynchronous Discussion Forums: A Meta-Analysis

Fkipuntan Martono (Universitas Tanjungpura, Pontianak, Indonesia) and Urai Salam (Universitas Tanjungpura, Pontianak, Indonesia)
DOI: 10.4018/IJICTE.2017010105


Asynchronous discussion forums are among the most preferred tools chosen to foster learning opportunities and knowledge construction. To reveal the cognitive engagement evidenced in the transcripts of the discussion forums, this study presents 51 papers. 17 papers reported research on students' attitude toward the use of ICT for learning, 16 papers revealed methodologies used in the field and 18 papers presented knowledge construction collaboration processes in online discussion forums. The primary sources for searching the papers were journals, proceedings and book chapters on educational technology. The starting point was the journals and proceedings that directly address ICT in education. The analysis shows that the majority of studies reported the level of students' knowledge construction remained in low level of cognitive engagement. The significance of the communication taking place through the mediation of computers seemed to depend greatly on the design of the classroom processes and explicit and tacit roles of teachers in providing straightforward guidance about students' participation in asynchronous discussions.
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Online Discussion Forum

The growing advancement of information and communication technology has enhanced communication between students and the instructor, and among students themselves. Many college instructors, due to easy access to communication technology tools, have moved or extended part of a classroom discussion to an online forum, where students and the instructor continue their discussion on course-related topics. The discussion forums, usually asynchronous, provide good data for both instructors and researchers to observe the quality of the interaction and the collaborative process of knowledge construction.

Woo and Reeves (2007), Heo, Lim, and Kim (2010), Pena-Shaff and Nicholls (2004) argue that knowledge, in the context of online discussion, is generally socially constructed. This perspective views learning as being distributed across people and tools. Angeli (2008) argues that higher order thinking cannot be understood by simply studying individual cognition per se; rather, one should investigate the whole system in which the individual operates. In the case of asynchronous discussion, the whole system includes the structure of the discussion, the individuals participating in the forum, and the flow of conversation.

Situated in online discussion forums learners are required to be active and interactive toward environments. The notion of active learning is highlighted in contrast to a traditional approach which treats learners as passive information recipients (Hughes & Daykin, 2002; McLuckie & Topping, 2004). Meanwhile, the notion of interactive learning refers to the student’s interaction with both physical resources and other people (Sims, 2003; Tam, 2000). The online discussion forums provide learners with opportunities to construct their understanding by conjoining in online communication (Sims, 2003; Yakimovicz & Murphy, 1995). Here, the construction of knowledge has been represented by learners’ contribution and interaction through electronic collaboration (Bonk, 2009; Bonk & King, 1998).

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