PARTICIPATION IN DISCUSSION FORUMS IN BEGINNING SPANISH COLLEGE COURSES

B. Glick

The Pennsylvania State University (UNITED STATES)
According to Kolb’s Experiential Learning Theory (Kolb, 1984), learning is an active, collaborative and interactive process where students use concrete experiences such as watching and listening to videos to develop abstract concepts which they test in new situations. This cycle of observation, thinking, and testing can be applied to hybrid online courses where students work collaboratively with their peers in various asynchronous systems such as Discussion Forums, Blogs and VoiceThreads. In several beginning hybrid language classes at the college level, two groups of students were compared: Students who participated 80% or more in the Discussion Forums or Active Discussion Group and those who earned less than 80% or Less Active Discussion Group. Students were assigned eight Discussion Forums in lieu of face – to- face classroom interactions. Each discussion incorporated a 10 – 20 minute video, comprehension questions, and open-ended questions for students to comment. Classmates’ answers were only visible after students wrote their own post. Students were tested on the material in the Discussion mostly in Exams where 5 – 10 % of the questions were related to the Discussion Forums’ vocabulary and cultural comparisons. Students were also tested in their ability to write essays which were not directly related to the Discussion Forums as well as in Oral Exams whose topics were not directly related to the Forums. Students in the Active Discussion Group earned 11% more points in Exams than those in the Less Active Discussion Group. Students in the Active Discussion Group also earned an average of 7% points more in the Written essays than their counterparts. These differences were statistically significant p < 0.05 . Participation in Discussion Forums did not have a statistical difference in the Oral Exam grade of either group. The data indicates the importance of participation in Discussion Forums in order to improve writing skills, vocabulary, and cultural knowledge.