Could not download file: This paper is available to authorised users only.

CREATING A VIRTUAL CLASSROOM: EVALUATING THE USE OF ONLINE DISCUSSION FORUMS TO INCREASE TEACHING AND LEARNING ACTIVITIES

L. Bezuidenhout

Rhodes University (SOUTH AFRICA)
In teaching large classes, the educationally beneficial informal interaction between students and between lecturer and students is generally reduced, while effective use of both students’ and lecturer’s time is often a challenge.

During student consultations, especially over the already stressful test and examination periods, many of the questions asked by the students are the same or similar. The lecturer needs to respond to each query by providing the same detailed explanation for the problem, resulting in ineffective use of time for the lecturer, while students waste time waiting for an appointment, or more often, simply don’t bother to follow up on any queries they may have.

Having a social presence is important for students’ cognitive development, but in a large class posing questions or interrogating issues during a lecture appears to be challenging for many students. It is often not easy for students to initiate discussions or establish relationships with peers or the lecturer due to feelings of vulnerability and due to the size and impersonal atmosphere of the lecture theatre.

This paper deals with the introduction of online discussion forums in an introductory accounting course and the benefits and problems experienced by the students, tutors and lecturer as a result thereof. Feedback received from these participants is discussed.

The introduction and use of these forums resulted in a virtual classroom being created, where significantly more teaching and learning activities took place, to the benefit of all participants. Participation could have been peripheral - in the form of simply reading discussions; or active – through posting questions, or responding to questions.