About this paper

Appears in:
Pages: 7220-7225
Publication year: 2017
ISBN: 978-84-697-3777-4
ISSN: 2340-1117
doi: 10.21125/edulearn.2017.0277

Conference name: 9th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 3-5 July, 2017
Location: Barcelona, Spain

FORMATTING THREADED DISCUSSIONS FOR ENHANCED E-LEARNING: EXPLORING BEST PRACTICES

M. Cole, D. Shelley, L. Swartz

Robert Morris University (UNITED STATES)
There have been a number of studies on the best use of discussion forums as effective learning tools (Hew, 2014, Loncar, Barrett, & Liu, 2014, Lai, 2012, Joyner, 2012, Tu, Blocher, & Gallagher, 2010, Andresen, 2009, Lin & Overbaugh, 2007) and on use of different formats, such as role-playing for learning (Beach & Doerr-Stevens, 2011).

Levine (2007) suggests that the use of discussion boards in e-learning environments can have a unique capacity to support higher-order constructivist learning and the development of a learning community. If, in fact, the use of discussion boards can facilitate higher-order learning, how discussion threads are structured matters. Andresen (2009) asserts that the process of discussions itself plays a key role in student learning. He continues saying that the importance of discussions is integral to student satisfaction and success.

This paper explores which of several formats in threaded discussions seem to work best for student learning. Student surveys were conducted over a period of three years asking which of four types of threaded discussions were most valuable to them in the online learning environment.

The first study was conducted in 2013-2014, followed by a second study conducted in 2015-2016. Each study was composed of multiple student surveys administered in the fall, spring, and summer terms. Graduate and undergraduate students in Business and Education classes were surveyed. Classes were taught both in the partially online and fully online formats. The setting was a mid-size private university in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

Results differed. In each of the surveys, students were asked to choose which of the four formats for threaded discussions they preferred: specific answer; opinion on an example or scenario presented; response to controversial issues; or role-playing scenarios. Students could also answer that they liked all “about the same” or did not like any of the formats for threaded discussions. In the initial study, more than a quarter of the students said they liked all “about the same.” With the exception of role-playing, one fifth chose one of the other three formats.

In the second study, almost a third of the students said they preferred discussion formats that centered on a scenario or an example on which they could express an opinion. A quarter preferred responding to controversial issues. Nineteen percent of the respondents in the second study said they liked all “about the same.”

This paper examines the possible basis for the differences. In both studies, the majority of the students classified themselves as full-time. Undergraduates formed the majority of respondents in the first study. Graduate students were the majority in the second study. Females outnumbered males, 77% to 23% in the first study, but in the second, the ratio was more balanced, 53% female to 47% male. Experience with online learning was roughly even (35%-36%).

This study is set within a broader inquiry on the value of threaded discussions in enhancing learning. With regard to that question and consistent with earlier studies (Best & Shelley, 2015, Shelley & Best, 2014), the authors found that students in both studies found threaded discussions to be only somewhat helpful (Cole, Shelley, & Swartz, 2016).
@InProceedings{COLE2017FOR,
author = {Cole, M. and Shelley, D. and Swartz, L.},
title = {FORMATTING THREADED DISCUSSIONS FOR ENHANCED E-LEARNING: EXPLORING BEST PRACTICES},
series = {9th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies},
booktitle = {EDULEARN17 Proceedings},
isbn = {978-84-697-3777-4},
issn = {2340-1117},
doi = {10.21125/edulearn.2017.0277},
url = {http://dx.doi.org/10.21125/edulearn.2017.0277},
publisher = {IATED},
location = {Barcelona, Spain},
month = {3-5 July, 2017},
year = {2017},
pages = {7220-7225}}
TY - CONF
AU - M. Cole AU - D. Shelley AU - L. Swartz
TI - FORMATTING THREADED DISCUSSIONS FOR ENHANCED E-LEARNING: EXPLORING BEST PRACTICES
SN - 978-84-697-3777-4/2340-1117
DO - 10.21125/edulearn.2017.0277
PY - 2017
Y1 - 3-5 July, 2017
CI - Barcelona, Spain
JO - 9th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
JA - EDULEARN17 Proceedings
SP - 7220
EP - 7225
ER -
M. Cole, D. Shelley, L. Swartz (2017) FORMATTING THREADED DISCUSSIONS FOR ENHANCED E-LEARNING: EXPLORING BEST PRACTICES, EDULEARN17 Proceedings, pp. 7220-7225.
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