Exploring discipline differentiation in online discussion participation

Petrea Redmond, Jo Devine, Marita Bassoon


Online discussion forums are often the only interaction or communication a student in an online learning environment will have with the course instructor and fellow students. Discussion forums are intended to elicit a range of thinking skills from the students, from purely social interaction to metacognition in order to achieve deep learning. Given the increasing use of online learning environments, it is timely to question whether students from different disciplines use online discussion forums in different ways, particularly in terms of their level of thinking. If there is differentiation, educators need to provide discipline specific opportunities for undergraduate students to interact in dynamic online discussions as part of a rich learning experience. This ethnographic study explored the types of online postings provided by students as part of their learning journey in two undergraduate online courses, one in an Engineering program and another in a Teacher Education program at a regional university. The goal of the research was to identify evidence of higher order thinking within students’ online posts. Data were analysed according to Henri’s Content Analysis Model for Asynchronous Conferencing.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.14742/ajet.624