Sunday, 3 November, 2013

Paper Review: Evaluating the quality of interaction in asynchronous discussion forums in fully online courses

Nandi, D., Hamilton, M., & Harland, J. (2012). Evaluating the quality of interaction in asynchronous discussion forums in fully online courses. Distance Education, 33(1), 5–30.    

This paper addresses a key research question, “How can we evaluate quality online interaction in a fully online course?”.  This questions was further refined into following two sub-questions:
  1. How can we evaluate quality interaction between students in fully online courses?
  2. How can we define the ideal role of the instructor while interacting with the students in fully online courses?
The discussion forum posts from four fully online courses were qualitatively analyzed using a grounded theoretic approach to capture the inner meaning of the data. Results of data analysis showed that students were actively participating in discussion, asking and answering questions. In response, instructor posted both direct answers and hints to promote deep learning of important course contents. Research further showed that rather than designing a fully student-centered or instructor-centered discussion, a combination of both approaches can be advantageous. The paper has provided two frameworks – one for students and other one for instructor – that can be used for developing and supporting quality discussion forums in fully online courses.    

This paper uses qualitative analysis techniques to analyze discussion forum data posts to identify the underlying themes. Such analysis has further resulted into two frameworks that can be used to develop and support quality discussion forums. While the list of themes seem to be exhaustive, perhaps a similar study in different context could identify additional themes.

Discussion forum is a critical tool for fostering learner-learner and learner-instructor interaction in an online course. This paper helps by providing some guidance on how this tool can be effectively used.

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