Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Factors Affecting Quality Discourse and Knowledge Construction in an Online University Course
by Sutton, Lourdes M., Ed.D., Northcentral University, 2012, 152; 3504887
Abstract (Summary)

Asynchronous discussion boards are an important element of online courses in higher education settings. Currently, questions persist about the quality of online interaction and discussions in which students are engaged. In addition, online instructors may not be utilizing instructional strategies that are appropriate for web-based learning environments, and may still rely on traditional face-to-face approaches to encourage interaction that do not necessarily translate well in the online medium. This qualitative single case study explored which instructional factors positively impacted quality discourse and knowledge construction in an online course that utilized asynchronous discussion boards as a primary learning component. Specifically, the roles of the instructor, course design, and assessment were analyzed to determine how these factors impacted student learning in a web-based course. Computer-assisted qualitative content analysis was used to assess quality discourse and knowledge construction as it was revealed in the discussion board transcripts. Course documents, such as the syllabus, assessment rubrics, and assignments were also analyzed to determine the impact on student interaction and discourse. In addition, a researcher reflection log was kept to corroborate evidence found in the transcripts and course documents. The 12 research participants were graduate students enrolled in an online course in an Educational Technology program offered at a four-year institution located in an urban setting. The results of this study revealed that students interacted primarily to share and compare information, and not to engage in higher-order critical thinking and shared knowledge construction. Specific aspects of course design, particularly a high degree of structure; clear, specific course criteria and expectations; and assessment of the discussion board postings all had an impact. The impact of the instructor's posts, however, was inconclusive as she posted infrequently, and the few posts did not seem to impact the quality or direction of the discussion. Future research is needed to determine how instructor posting behaviors may impact the quality of student discussion. Also, student interviews would help confirm evidence found in the discussion board transcript data. As the number of web-based courses offered in higher education continues to grow, ongoing research efforts are critical to improving online pedagogy.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Collins, Linda
School: Northcentral University
School Location: United States -- Arizona
Source: DAI-A 73/08(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Educational technology, Higher education
Keywords: Asynchronous learning, Course discussion boards, Interaction, Knowledge construction, Online, Quality discourse
Publication Number: 3504887
ISBN: 9781267303622
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