Engagement with and participation in online discussion forum

Do people learn through engagement and participation in online discussion forum?  To what extent is such learning more enriching than other forms of learning (i.e. learning through blogging or twittering)?

In this Participation in and engagement with online discussion forum, Mokoena concludes that

“… that the discussion forum offers an excellent way in which lecturers can engage effectively with students studying through distance education. However, lecturers should not assume that if they post a task on a forum students will automatically engage with it. Lecturers need to be proactive, recognise the students’ work and provide feedback. While this might be perceived as additional work, it should be noted that synthesising students’ comments and adding commentary could provide a valuable resource for students to use in the same module in future.”

Participants of discussion forum would likely be looking for interaction in forum, with a focus on ideas sharing and exchange, and critique on concepts and applications as in the case of MOOCs (CCK08).

What motivates people to engage and participate in online discussion forum?

In an online learning environment, it is imperative to note that the “How to, Chance to, and Want to” engage and participate in online discussion forum is addressed through the design, creation and delivery of an online platform for discussion and learning.  This is important as in the case of MOOCs.

As Professor Gilly Salman suggests in her 5 stage model, each stage requires participants to master certain skills.  Unless participants have mastered those skills required at a certain stage, it would be difficult to expect participants to engage and participate in the forum with meaningful and thorough discussion.

Most participants would like to learn through the discussion forum on the professor’s and other learners’ views and perspectives on certain issues or problems, and how such problems (or questions) are tackled or resolved, based on their experience.  There are participants coming to forum for reasons other than learning about a particular subject or topic, like socialising, chit-chatting to exchange their learning experiences on their areas of interests, which may be tangent to the discussion.

In a formal online discussion, this could often be viewed as irrelevant or shallow in learning, but could be significant for learners to start having a conversation.  The concept of building fun in the learning conversation is relevant especially when the discourse relates to difficult and complicated subject matters.

How would people decide  which discussion forum to join and participate?

Though it is important for the facilitator to provide the lead in the discussion in the first place, it would be important that participants are allowed to enter the discussion with autonomy, deciding which discussion topic to initiate, and threads they would like to engage in, or respond to.

Why wouldn’t people continue with the discussion in online discussion forum?

There are many reasons.  Discussion fatigue syndrome are common in discussion forum, especially when one has to read lengthy discussions, or threads which may take time to understand.  People read topics or threads based principally on their interests, and so could be choosy in the participation.  The perception of talking with phantom strangers is common in open forums, which could easily deter new comers to join the conversation, especially in MOOCs.  The problem with trolls and the lack of moderation could lead to participants avoiding discussion forum. This is still an issue with MOOC as reported here on 10 reasons why people didn’t complete their MOOC.

To what extent are people satisfied with the learning in online discussion forums?

Do students achieve learning outcomes with asynchronous online discussion?

Refer to this:

In summary, unless postings are excessive and interfere with other forms of learning (Johnson, 2005), recent research establishes that student achievement is facilitated by asynchronous online discussion (Johnson et al., 2005; Koory, 2003; Wang, 2004). Asynchronous discussion reflects high-level cognitive processing (Järvelä & Häkkinen, 2002; Meyer, 2003). When compared with unstructured discussion, structured discussion has been associated with the highest levels of complex and critical thinking (Aviv et al., 2003). Required postings are more effective than optional postings (Johnson & Howell, 2005; Kear, 2004).

How to engage students in online discussion?

Some elements of best practices identified by Rose and Smith (2007) and Roper (2007) within this organising framework, such as giving clear directions, providing instructors’ feedback, promoting motivation, setting expectations, organising discussions and determining the types of questions (Mokoena, 2013).


One thought on “Engagement with and participation in online discussion forum

  1. Pingback: Engagement with and participation in online discussion forum ... | Discussions in Online Courses | Scoop.it

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