From Active Reading to Active Dialogue: An Investigation of Annotation-Enhanced Online Discussion Forums

From Active Reading to Active Dialogue: An Investigation of Annotation-Enhanced Online Discussion Forums

Cindy Xin (Simon Fraser University, Canada), Geoffrey Glass (Simon Fraser University, Canada), Andrew Feenberg (Simon Fraser University, Canada), Eva Bures (Bishops University, Canada) and Phil Abrami (Concordia University, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61692-898-8.ch017
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Abstract

Our research aims to improve online discussion forums. The authors identify typical problems in online discussion that create difficulties for learners and describe a pedagogical approach emphasizing the importance of moderating in dealing with these problems. The usual design of discussion forums in learning management systems is not helpful but can be improved by specific add-ons. The authors describe a software add-on to the Moodle discussion forum called Marginalia that was designed to implement our preferred pedagogy. They focus on annotation, aiding the retrieval of archived material, helping participants build upon one another’s ideas, and encouraging participants to write “weaving” messages that connect ideas and summarize the discourse. Preliminary studies of this software found a number of uses, some of them unexpected. The chapter concludes with an analysis of two trial classes employing Marginalia.
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Introduction

Human interaction through text based discussion forums is widely employed in online education today. Over the past two decades, many researchers have written about the pedagogical potential of forums for reflection, critical thinking, and collaborative learning. But a number of recent studies have found that there is a lack of deep engagement, and that students do not view forums as a space for critical discourse (Fahy, 2005; Friesen, 2009; Gao & Wong, 2008; Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2001Lee & Jeong, 2009; Osman & Duffy, 2009; Rourke & Kanuka, 2007; Shea & Bidjerano, 2009).

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