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Assessing Online Asynchronous Discussion in Online Courses: An Empirical Study

Assessing Online Asynchronous Discussion in Online Courses: An Empirical Study



Powerpoint presentation for TCC 07 Poster Session: Assessing Online Asynchronous Discussion in Online Courses: An Empirical Study

Powerpoint presentation for TCC 07 Poster Session: Assessing Online Asynchronous Discussion in Online Courses: An Empirical Study



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    Assessing Online Asynchronous Discussion in Online Courses: An Empirical Study Assessing Online Asynchronous Discussion in Online Courses: An Empirical Study Presentation Transcript

    • Assessing Online Asynchronous Discussion in Online Graduate Courses: An Empirical Study Shijuan Liu [email_address]
    • Why This Study?
      • Online asynchronous discussion is argued to have many benefits for student learning, such as helping learners negotiate higher levels of understanding, share and develop alternative viewpoints (Rovai, 2000).
      • Whether we should and how to assess student participation in the discussion has been a heated topic among educators and researchers in online education (Bonk & Dennen, 2003).
      • Anderson (2004) notes that online students, who typically are adults busy with many commitments, may not participate in such activities as online discussion if the activities appear to be marginal.
      • ANTA (2002) finds that required online participation can help keep students motivated and involved, enable student to support each other’s learning, and impact on learning outcomes.
      • There is a concern that assessment of online discussion may hamper student participation (Ho, 2002).
      • According to Hawkes & Dennis (2003), establishing clear criteria for the assessment of online discussion is critical for successful use of the media. Anderson (2004) echoes and further points out that developing and implementing an explicit assessment framework can be potentially time-consuming for instructors.
      • While there is some literature addressing these issues, there is a lack of empirical studies (Ho, 2002).
    • Research Questions
      • Was asynchronous discussion required and counted for students’ final grades? If yes, what percentage, and why? If not, why not?
      • How was the online discussion organized in the courses examined?
      • How did the course instructors grade the discussion?
      • Why did the instructors make certain decisions concerning the above issues? And
      • What considerations, concerns, and needs did they have?
    • Methodology
      • Courses offered by five masters’ programs in a large, public Midwestern university:
        • Educational Technology (fully online)
        • Language Education (fully online)
        • Adult Education (most courses online)
        • Business Administration (most courses online)
        • Nursing (core courses online)
      • Data source
        • Document analysis (50 online courses offered during 2005-06)
        • Virtual observation (12 courses)
        • Interviews (20 instructors)
    • Asynchronous Discussion Required?
      • 36 of the 50 (72%) examined course
      • Yes. Because
        • Important. “Extremely”
        • Make online course different from a corresponding course (interact with each other)
        • Different perspectives. Learning community. “ It is my belief that we learn by doing and from interacting with others around us. It is the human interaction that contributes to our understanding of ourselves and our world .”
        • Help assess students’ learning and development, because of “limited access to student presence”
      • No. Because
        • Mixed feelings: beneficial and problematic. Prefer to let students participate in a natural way. Instead of being forced. Also, hard to grade discussion.
        • The course is not about talking, but doing. Performance assessment.
      • Not requiring discussion did not mean that there was no discussion in the course, or discussion was not important to the instructor.
    • Origination of Discussion
      • Weekly; some weeks (topics); or one week
      • Whole class; groups; or teams
      • Specific guidelines, or general
      • Simple, or complex
      • Answer questions, respond to postings from their peers; only comment on others’ postings
        • Students submitted discussion questions
        • Students designed discussion activities for their peers
    • Grading Discussion
      • Ranging from 3% to 40%. Mode=20% (15/50); 30% (10/50)
      • “ Difficult”, “tough”, “not easy”
      • Especially challenging in grading quality of discussion
      • A holistic grade in the end; or grade on each module/topic
        • “ Not everyone has to be super each week. Not everyone needs a reaction for all their action .”
        • “ If I only grade them at the end of the semester, what is the point? Just telling them you screwed up ?”
      • Strategies
        • Small variation (7-10pts)
        • Pass/fail; Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory
        • Detailed criteria
        • Peer evaluation
    • Concerns
      • Unease about grading one’s comment
        • “ I do not know how to grade one’s comment…That is a brilliant comment, you got an A. You got a C.…Also people will worry about if they said something that I disagree with, it will hurt their grade. This drives me really silly.”
      • Time consuming
        • “ Once more, I have 50 students. How do track each of them doing in discussion forum, and track each of the points they make? This is really really good, this is not. You know, here and there, I have not figured out a way to do that. That is too time consuming that I do not have time for anything else.”
    • Summary
      • All the interviewees agreed asynchronous discussion could be beneficial for online courses, including instructors who did not require students to participate.
      • The perceived benefits of asynchronous discussion can be summarized into two levels.
        • Necessary.
          • Comparable to classroom discussion to some extent, helping students get some flavor of interaction that occurred in a face-to-face course. Differentiate an online course from a corresponding course, or a video broadcast course in which most time the communication is one way (from the instructor to the students).
          • Help instructors to better assess students’ learning progress and outcomes.
        • Advantageous.
          • Provides flexibility for both students and instructors in terms of when and where to participate in the discussion.
          • Encourages more thoughtful discussion in that both instructors and students can sit back to think and review their postings carefully before they send out.
          • Can be archived and tracked.
          • Helping build a learning community, allowing online students to support each other, and helping decreasing isolation.
    • Summary (cont’d)
      • None of the interviewed instructors reported it was easy to grade students’ participation.
      • While many instructors attempted to be objective and fair by using a variety of strategies, most of them sounded that they were not very confident regarding whether their strategies were effective.
      • Nearly all the interviewed instructors indicated that they enjoyed working with online graduate students, because majority of them were highly self-motivated. These students seemed to care more about their learning than grades.
    • Discussion
      • Discussion required or not? For what purpose?
      • Complexity of online discussion activities
      • Grading: what percentage? how rigorous?
        • “ If you are grading strictly quantitatively, it is a test. I think there should be freedom in the way people discuss, as there should have freedom in the way they think.”
    • Future Research
      • Collect responses from more instructors (larger sample)
      • Students’ perspectives on these issues, compare and contrast with instructors’.
    • Questions? Comments? Thank you!