ETEC 648- Session 4: Literature Review- Online Discussion Boards

1. Citation:

Blackmon, S. J. (2012). Outcomes of Chat and Discussion Board Use in Online Learning: A Research Synthesis. Journal of Educators Online, 9(2).

Summary:

Blackmon (2012) researched the outcomes of using chat boards and discussion boards in online learning by conducting a research synthesis of articles in the Education Resources Information Center (ERIC) with the search terms: “discussion board and satisfaction, online chat and satisfaction, online learning and discussion, and computer mediated communication” (p. 6). She used an inclusion and exclusion chart with criteria that helped her decide which articles she would use for the study and she included studies that were qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods. She chose eleven articles and determined the major themes that were discussed frequently.

According to Blackmon, the research showed that relational capital determined whether students participated in discussions, students missed the social cues in face to face discussions including the tone of voice and facial expressions of peers, interaction in discussion boards increased student achievement, issues with time determined whether students participated in a discussion, and the presence of the instructor influenced how students interacted in the discussion board. Relational capital is based on the relationships that students have with one another and how those relationships may affect their interaction in discussion boards. Some students saw their role in the discussion as leaders who set boundaries and started asking other students questions. Blackmon also discussed that the quantitative research about asynchronous online discussions, students were more engaged as they were deeper into the semester and that students became more comfortable with one another as time passed. They asked each other specific questions.

In one class, the professor created folders that were non-discussion related including topics such as autobiographies and prayer requests. The most popular folder was the autobiography one because students felt more connected to each other and valued in their online class. Some students found it difficult to convey their points through emails without using facial expressions and tone as social cues, so their emails came across differently than they meant them to. Students who used higher levels of thinking in their discussion posts performed better in the class. Many students expressed a lack of online posts in discussion boards simply due to not having enough time to post and to follow-up with the discussion. The presence of the instructor was also a factor discussed in the article. Blackmon mentioned that students interacted more in the discussion board when the professor required them to respond to each other, but at the same time, had little social presence. The focus of the instructor was to have student-to-student interactions, not student-to-professor interactions.

Review:

This article is valuable to my research because it outlines major themes in online discussions that I can research deeper now, but it gave me a good starting point as I look to begin my own discussion board and to think about how I will assess what my students write and how they interact with each other. Some strengths in the article included that she used eleven articles to gather her data from, and that they included three different types of data: quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods. I found that the quotes from the students gave me a better understanding of their points of view regarding online discussions. One weakness in the article were that it did not go in depth in the research, but just gave an overview of online discussions and the major themes surrounding them. The articles she chose were written between 1998 and 2010, but I think that she should have chosen a more current span of data since she wrote the article in 2012. I know that when I was doing my research, I tried to find articles that were written within the past six to eight years. Overall, I would recommend this article if they want a good overview of trends in online discussions.

2. Citation:

Bliss, C. A., & Lawrence, B. (2009). From Posts to Patterns: A Metric to Characterize Discussion Board Activity in Online Courses. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 13(2), 15–32.

3. Citation:

Bradley, M. E., Thom, L. R., Hayes, J., & Hay, C. (2008). Ask and You Will Receive: How Question Type Influences Quantity and Quality of Online Discussions. British Journal of Educational Technology, 39(5), 888–900.

Summary:

Bradley et al., 2008, researched how the type of questions that students responded to affected the quantity and quality of their responses. They used Bloom’s taxonomy to determine that online discussions are a higher level thinking skill. The six types of questions that they analyzed and focused on were direct link, course link, brainstorm, limited focal, open focal, and application. The goal of the study was to determine whether these different types of questions would influence the types of responses that students wrote on the discussion board. Direct link questions were taken from an article or a quote and were considered to be analytical and higher order. Course link questions were from the course and students had to make a connection between the information from the course and from the readings. They were also considered higher-order questions because students had to synthesize information to respond. Brainstorm questions were written so that students could generate all the ideas that they could come up with about an issue. They were higher-order and synthetic questions. Limited focal questions required students to take an issue with alternatives and justify their positions, and were higher-order and evaluative. Open focal questions gave an issue with no alternatives and asked students for their opinion. These were also higher-order and evaluative question types. Application questions asked students to respond to a scenario based on information from the reading and justify their response with that information. These questions were lower-order Blooms and applied. The dependent variables were the word count and the degree to which the question was completed. The questions they researched were: “1. Which question type generated the highest word count? 2. Which question type generated the most complete answers? 3. Which question types resulted in higher-order thinking in answers and responses?” (p. 891).

The study required students to participate in the online discussions as part of the grade for the course. They had three questions to respond to for each discussion, for a total of twenty-four questions in the semester. The study found that limited focal and direct link question types resulted in the highest word counts, followed by open focal and brainstorm questions. Students wrote more when they had to give their opinions as a part of their response. The questions that generated answers that were more complete were also limited focal and direct link question types. The types of questions that were least completed were application and course link questions. The questions that resulted in higher-order thinking were course link, brainstorm, and direct link questions. The questions that provided the lowest levels of thinking according to Bloom’s Taxonomy were the open focal and application question types.

Review:

This article is valuable to my research because it outlines major themes in online discussions that I can research deeper now, but it gave me a good starting point as I look to begin my own discussion board and to think about how I will assess what my students write and how they interact with each other. Some strengths in the article included that she used eleven articles to gather her data from, and that they included three different types of data: quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods. I found that the quotes from the students gave me a better understanding of their points of view regarding online discussions. One weakness in the article were that it did not go in depth in the research, but just gave an overview of online discussions and the major themes surrounding them. The articles she chose were written between 1998 and 2010, but I think that she should have chosen a more current span of data since she wrote the article in 2012. I know that when I was doing my research, I tried to find articles that were written within the past six to eight years. Overall, I would recommend this article if they want a good overview of trends in online discussions.

4. Citation:

Brooks, C. F., & Bippus, A. M. (2012). Underscoring the Social Nature of Classrooms by Examining the Amount of Virtual Talk across Online and Blended College Courses. European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning, (1).

5. Citation:

Clarke, L. W., & Kinne, L. (2012). More than Words: Investigating the Format of Asynchronous Discussions as Threaded Discussions or Blogs. Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education, 29(1), 4–13.

6. Citation:

Darabi, A., Liang, X., Suryavanshi, R., & Yurekli, H. (2013). Effectiveness of Online Discussion Strategies: A Meta-Analysis. American Journal of Distance Education, 27(4), 228–241.

7. Citation:

Erdogan, I., & Campbell, T. (2008). Teacher Questioning and Interaction Patterns in Classrooms Facilitated with Differing Levels of Constructivist Teaching Practices. International Journal of Science Education, 30(14), 1891–1914.

8. Citation:

Gender Differences in Student Discourse on Discussion Board and Blogs: An Instructor’s Quest to Create a Level Playing Field in a Hybrid Classroom. (n.d.).

9. Citation:

Kim, H. K., & Bateman, B. (2010). Student Participation Patterns in Online Discussion: Incorporating Constructivist Discussion into Online Courses. International Journal on E-Learning, 9(1), 79–98.

10. Citation:

Kingsley, P. (2011). The Socratic Dialogue in Asynchronous Online Discussions: Is Constructivism Redundant? Campus-Wide Information Systems, 28(5), 320–330.

11. Citation:

Lai, K. (2012). Assessing Participation Skills: Online Discussions with Peers. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 37(8), 933–947.

12. Citation:

Landis, M., Swain, K. D., Friehe, M. J., & Coufal, K. L. (2007). Evaluating Critical Thinking in Class and Online: Comparison of the Newman Method and the Facione Rubric. Communication Disorders Quarterly, 28(3), 135–143.

13. Citation:

McLoughlin, D., & Mynard, J. (2009). An analysis of higher order thinking in online discussions. Innovations in Education & Teaching International, 46(2), 147–160. doi:10.1080/14703290902843778

Summary:

This study by McLoughlin and Mynard (2009) analyzed how higher-order thinking was effectively facilitated in asynchronous online discussion boards. The study focused on two courses that were twenty weeks long and they were taught by McLoughlin and Mynard. They decided to incorporate online discussions because not all of their students participated in the face-to-face discussions. Since the students were taking an English class, and their primary language was Arabic, the authors thought that the students might benefit from having more time to form their responses if they wrote them online rather than coming up with them instantly in class. Higher-order thinking includes the comprehension, analysis, synthesis, evaluation, and application levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Some benefits of online discussion boards are that they are student centered, they can be non-intimidating, and teachers and students are equal participants and can contribute whenever they choose to do so. Another positive aspect of online discussion boards is that the teacher does not dominate the discussion because they only contribute from 10% to 15% of the discussion, unlike what can happen in a traditional classroom in which the teacher talk can take up to 80% of the time in the classroom. Online discussion board are one way to have students work collaboratively with their peers as they take into account multiple perspectives and share ideas. However, just because these are benefits of online discussion boards, it does not mean that these benefits are evident in all online discussions. In order to attain these benefits, instructors must carefully think about the types of questions they can ask that will lead to students using higher-order thinking skills. McLoughlin and Mynard focused on the Community of Inquiry framework by Garrison et al., (2000) in which the learner constructs knowledge through a collaborative process. Social, cognitive, and teaching presence are the three elements of the framework and they are evident in the components of an online discussion. The phases of cognitive presence are the triggering phase in which the question is posed on the discussion board, the exploration phase in which students are thinking about and exploring the question as they brainstorm and question, the integration phase is where students make connections as they integrate their thoughts to construct meaning, and resolution where the question is resolved. Integration is the stage in which higher-order thinking skills are used most by students.

The researchers found that discussions that take place online have the potential to require students to use higher-order thinking skills as they respond to the prompt given by the instructor. They found that the wording of the question made a large difference in the type of response students would write. Students were assigned grades, given time limits, clear guidelines, and examples which all contributed to students participating with higher-order thoughts in their posts and they stayed on task and did not engage in social conversations on the discussion boards.

Review:

The limitations in this study include the small size of the sample and that the researchers were the instructors of both classes. A strength of the article is that it is an example of active research because they noticed a problem and designed the study when they realized that their students were having issues in the face-to-face discussions. I have not read many articles in which the research is conducted this way, but it makes me feel that it is more applicable because an actual teacher recognized a problem and worked to solve it by using writing a review of the literature and designed their own study. I recommend this article as a good overview of the Community of Inquiry model and of higher-order thinking, and as a good starting point for any teachers who would like to begin using online discussions in their own classrooms.

14. Citation:

Morrison, J. R., Watson, G. S., & Morrison, G. R. (2012). Comparison of Restricted and Traditional Discussion Boards on Student Critical Thinking. Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 13(3), 167–176.

15. Citation:

Putman, S. M., Ford, K., & Tancock, S. (2012). Redefining Online Discussions: Using Participant Stances to Promote Collaboration and Cognitive Engagement. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 24(2), 151–167.

16. Citation:

Ruday, S. (2011). Expanding the Possibilities of Discussion: A Strategic Approach to Using Online Discussion Boards in the Middle and High School English Classroom. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education (CITE Journal), 11(4), 350–361.

17. Citation:

Shroff, R. H., Vogel, D. R., & Coombes, J. (2008). Assessing Individual-Level Factors Supporting Student Intrinsic Motivation in Online Discussions: A Qualitative Study. Journal of Information Systems Education, 19(1), 111–126.

18. Citation:

Song, L., & McNary, S. W. (2011). Understanding Students’ Online Interaction: Analysis of Discussion Board Postings. Journal of Interactive Online Learning, 10(1), 1–14.

19. Citation:

Szabo, Z., & Schwartz, J. (2011). Learning Methods for Teacher Education: The Use of Online Discussions to Improve Critical Thinking. Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 20(1), 79–94.

Summary:

According to Szabo and Schwartz (2011), technology is a tool that can enhance the process of learning if it is used in a meaningful manner that develops critical thinking skills. It has been shown that asynchronous discussion can develop those critical thinking skills and increase the satisfaction of students in online courses. Critical thinking skills include “logical reasoning, analyzing arguments, testing hypotheses, making decisions, estimating likelihoods, and creative thinking” (p. 80). Higher order thinking skills include the upper levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy and the revised taxonomy that include metacognition. Traditional face-to-face discussions can also help students achieve higher order thinking skills, but constraints such as time and having one or a few students dominate a discussion are present that are not issues in online asynchronous discussions. Online discussions give students the opportunity to have more time to come up with their thoughts and give everyone an equal opportunity to participate outside of the regular hours spent in the classroom.

Szabo and Schwartz conducted a study on four sections of an Educational Psychology course and two of the four sections participated in online discussions in Blackboard. Two professors taught the courses, and they were identical in everything as far as objectives, requirements, assignments, assessments, grading criteria, textbooks, syllabi, and calendar. The “technology” group participated online and in-class, while the “traditional” group was given short writing reflection assignments to make up for the work that the “technology” group had to do online. They found that by giving students in the “technology” group rubrics that specified that higher order thinking was required, students knew what was expected of them in their discussion board posts. The analysis of the Blackboard discussion posts showed that students were increasing in their critical thinking skills, while students who were in the “traditional” group did not show the same increase in their use of critical thinking skills. The quality of the posts changed over time as students were asked lower level questions in the beginning of the trimester and higher-level questions as the semester progressed.

Review:

This research was limited by a small sample size and because it was only tested in one type of course. However, its findings are important for traditional classroom teachers as they look for ways to integrate technology into their teaching. Teachers are always trying to find ways to make the time spent in class more valuable and how to give every student an equal opportunity to share. It is difficult to do that in a classroom with more than thirty students. I recommend this article to instructors who are looking for research that shows that online discussion boards can lead students to think critically because it will help them determine what kinds of questions they should pose to their students if they want them to respond in a way that demonstrates higher-level critical thinking.

20. Citation:

Wang, Q., & Woo, H. L. (2007). Comparing asynchronous online discussions and face-to-face discussions in a classroom setting. British Journal of Educational Technology, 38(2), 272–286. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8535.2006.00621.x

Summary:

According to Wang and Woo (2007), discussions can be online or face-to-face and they are often used in distance learning to give students the opportunity to interact with their classmates. The researchers in this study focus on the differences between asynchronous online discussions and face-to-face discussions in a classroom setting.. The four key differences between the two are access, timing, mode of expression, and visual cues. Online discussions can benefit students who are shy and would normally not participate in a face-to-face discussion. However, people are more likely to be aggressive in online discussions and to write negative remarks than they would say in a face-to-face discussion.

The students in this study participated in both online and face-to-face discussions. The research questions were “How did the students participate in in-class online discussions and in-class face-to-face discussions?” and “What were the students’ perceived differences between in-class online discussions and in-class face-to-face discussions?” (p. 275). Students were placed into groups and they decided if they wanted to have an online discussion, or a face-to-face discussion. The students whose groups were having online discussions worked in silence, while students who were working face-to-face were interacting at a noisier level. The online discussions took more time to complete than the face-to-face discussions did. More planning is required for an in-class online discussion. Students working online often copied their posts from the discussion board when summarizing the discussion, while the face-to-face discussion students had to paraphrase what was said. According to the results, the five themes that were favored online versus face-to-face were atmosphere, responses, efficiency, interactivity, and communication. Responses and clarification were favored in face-to-face discussions, and atmosphere and preparation were the least favored. Face-to-face discussions were more authentic and prompt because they were happening in real time and participants could rely on visual cues. However, online discussions were more comfortable for students because everyone had an equal opportunity to participate. Yet, students had to wait for feedback in online discussions because they could not all participate at the same time. For online discussions, the instructor must write questions that are clear and understandable. In face-to-face discussions, students must come to class prepared because immediate responses are expected. Online, a student would be able to research a topic further before responding, but that is not acceptable when in a face-to-face discussion.

Review:

This study is interesting because it is the first one that I have read that gives students in a group to participate online or face-to-face in a discussion that takes place during class time. Due to that, there are some limitations to the study such as which groups chose what type of discussion, and the small sample size. However, it is interesting that the teacher had both types of discussions going on at the same time. The research still seems to follow the trend that online discussions give students more time to research and come up with a detailed response. This is especially important for students who may not be native English speakers. I would recommend this article to instructors who are debating which type of discussion would work better in their classrooms.

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