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).


Motivation in MOOC

How to engage and motivate adult learners?

Viplav asks:

What skills do learners require to navigate these new learning environments? Does it require that they be motivated, socially enabled and have certain Critical Literacies? Should we worry about motivation or presume it? Is learning an art that can be acquired through reflection and practice or is it a science that can/should be rigorously taught?

Motivation is one of the most important driving factors in participating in MOOCs, as Doug discusses the problems here.

How were participants engaged and motivated in MOOC?  Stephen summarises:

“Engagement – how?
Col: “Chickering and Gamson’s (1987) seven principles of good practice in undergraduate education have been referred to as a guiding light for quality undergraduate education and represents a philosophy of student engagement (Puzziferr-Schnitzer, 2005).”

Arthur W. Chickering and Zelda F. Gamson
Good practice in undergraduate education:

  1. encourages contact between students and faculty,
  2. develops reciprocity and cooperation among students,
  3. encourages active learning,
  4. gives prompt feedback,
  5. emphasizes time on task,
  6. communicates high expectations, and
  7. respects diverse talents and ways of learning.

Also TeacherTube – Work on the Work Making Student Engagement Central eg
– student teamwork, discussing the work with them – interaction

Student Engagement in Dawson Creek – video
– project-based learning, real-life learning, eg., CSI project
– all our subjects are incorporated
– if we can teach effort –
But the presumption of a MOOC is that participants have self-selected, that they’re already interested and motivated.”

I have shared some ideas about MOOC here.

This paper on Why Share Knowledge? The Influence of ICT on the Motivation for Knowledge Sharing by Paul Hendricks provides an interesting insight into motivation of people in knowledge sharing.

The simple equation that knowledge sharing is good for organizations cannot be sustained. Knowledge can be augmented if it is shared, knowledge sharing may also prove detrimental to knowledge. The first will occur if people truly learn from each other. The second is to be expected if inadequate representations of knowledge are transferred between people. Both the acts of externalization and internalization (see Figure 2) require that knowing subjects should recognize the value of the knowledge to be shared. Otherwise, there is no knowing how both these processes, that require active intellectual involvement of the knowledge sharers, are best constructed. The key to success in knowledge sharing is that the personal ambition should match the group ambition. Therefore, also the touchstone for successful ICT applications for knowledge sharing is the question how they relate to these ambitions, and to the motivation of knowledge workers to match them.

So, based on such learning, is the sharing in networks also sustainable?  What are the motivations behind such sharing of knowledge amongst participants – i.e. networkers or PLENK participants? Would the touchstone for successful PLE/PLN applications for knowledge sharing be based on the ambitions and motivations of participants of PLENK?

How about the motivation with the super MOOCs or x MOOC?  You will find some student experience listed here.

Student experience in MOOCs

Flosse says:

I have been sceptical about the idea of massive open online course (MOOC). I have a theory: many courses (not only the MOOCs) are not motivating because they do not pay enough attention to the participant’s desires.

In a good course students should have the opportunity to practice leadership, gain knowledge, and be autonomous. Students should be provided ways to get social attention and opportunities to play and compete with each other. But this is not enough. Students should have the opportunity to make connections to deep philosophical issues, too: to obey moral codes, improve society and have connections to past and upcoming generations. Students should feel safe and secure and opportunities to take part in rituals, organize themselves, eat and express themselves as sexual beings.

I would agree on some of the points about what students should have as opportunity to practice like leadership, knowledge gains and autonomy, and to make connections.

I am not that sure if students should necessarily need to take part in rituals in community or social networks, though it would be nice to organize themselves, eat and express themselves in social gatherings.

I think there are assumptions that people would like to be involved in “religious” social gathering, if rituals are used in course, rather than in academic discourse, or social gathering, especially in social networking or communities.

Having motivated learners in a course is a blessing, but I think the group think may develop due to overly zealous and religious groups of learners in the community as I have shared here:

Having rituals and communities of elites also could create barriers to learning, especially in MOOC.  Here Stephen mentions that:

My own experience in life is that the people who become elite do not always become so as a result of their generosity, but rather as a result of their parsimony. They achieve their status as elite not by sharing but rather by hoarding. Such members of the elite carefully cultivate a culture of dependence. By ensuring that their followers depend on them for knowledge, influence and wealth, they augment their own position in society. The parsimonious elite are not interested in the empowerment of their students. They are greedy, selfish and self-interested.

Not all members of the elite are parsimonious, and not all experts are members of this elite. But the membership is sufficiently large that a learner ought not, as a general policy, place oneself in a position of dependence on experts. With every word of advice received, the learner must be in a position to ask whom the advice is intended to benefit. And the learner must be in a position to seek alternative sources of expertise, to weight options, and to decide what to believe for him or her self.

Stephen remarks: “Our MOOCs – including Change, including Connectivism, not to mention the artificial intelligence MOOCs and MITx and the rest of them – are insufficiently connective and they’re tending to slip toward an emphasis on content. And that’s where they stop being effective.”

That’s a critical point in MOOC, on whether one should focus on the content or the process, or the conversation that connects and binds people to share and co-create knowledge, which leads to a sustainable community or network of practice – in education and learning.

I agree with Stephen’s view that “Badges are not sufficient, analytics are not sufficient, it’s the interactivity, it’s the relative position with everybody else in the network, that represents learning in this sort of environment.”  To me, the conversation embedded in the discourse in MOOC is what motivates most participants in a sustainable manner, though badges or certification may serve to recognize some of the literacies, knowledge and skills participants have developed throughout the course.

Postscript: A relevant paper on Motivation

#Change11 #CCK12 Student Owned Learning Engagement Model

This Student Owned Learning Engagement Model sounds useful.

Simon Atkinson elaborates in his paper:

“Expectations of systematized pedagogical planners and embedded templates of learning within the institutional virtual learning environments (VLEs) have, so far, failed to deliver the institutional efficiencies anticipated. In response, a new model of learning design is proposed with a practical, accessible, and freely available “toolkit” that embodies and embeds pedagogical theories and practices. The student-owned learning-engagement (SOLE) model aims to support professional development within practice, constructive alignment, and holistic visualisations, as well as enable the sharing of learning design processes with the learners themselves.”

The SOLE model’s (Atkinson, 2010) original development goals were threefold:

  1. to embed pedagogical guidance regarding constructive alignment (Biggs & Tang, 2007) inside a learning design tool easily accessible to staff;
  2. to produce a practical model that captured the lessons to be learnt from Laurillard’s representations of conversational learning processes (Laurillard, 2002);
  3. to enable the development of a practical toolkit which would make patterns of learning design shareable and transparent to students and colleagues (Conole & Fill, 2005).

I have been thinking about how learning engagement could be supported and evaluated under MOOC.  As the current MOOC (based on connectivist model) has a focus on individual learning goals (and outcomes), rather than course learning outcomes, this learning engagement model would need to be adapted to provide a flexible framework for participants to work on.

How to use the toolkit for evaluating and assessing the learning in MOOC?  The breakdown of elements of “learning” might be useful if the individual learning and development plans, the personal learning process and connections are linked to the toolkit.