Online Learning in Discussion Groups: A Sense-Making Approach1

Online Learning in Discussion Groups: A Sense-Making Approach1

David J. Schaefer (Franciscan University of Steubenville, USA) and Brenda Dervin (Ohio State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-097-6.ch020
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Recently, theorists concerned about the democratic quality of electronic group discussions have advocated the incorporation of situational information to facilitate consensus/dissensus activity. In this chapter, we demonstrate the utilization of a discussion group design and analytical process informed by Sense-Making Methodology to highlight the relationship between situational aspects of online dialogue and consensus/dissensus activity. We analyzed 1,360 messages submitted to three pedagogical discussion groups. The postings fell into two broad situational modes: (a) dialogic, which coincided with an outward orientation and a greater number of agreeing/disagreeing micro-practices, and (b) contemplative, which demonstrated more inwardly-focused personalized observations and far fewer agreeing/disagreeing micro-practices. These findings suggest that, counter to received theories advocating the privileging of user-to-user interaction within online discussion groups, both modes appeared to be important for robust communicative activities.
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