Thursday, December 01, 2005

Assessing Discussion Contributions

Assessing Students' Contributions to Online Asynchronous Discussions in University-Level Courses
I found this paper most interesting because of the points of divergence from the types of learning and collaborating I'll be looking at. In 43 Things, there's no agenda, no curriculum, no requirements -- people just post what they're interested in doing and learning, or helping other people pursue goals they've already achieved themselves. In a university course, students have to basically be coerced into interacting in very specific ways and are assessed on their performance. I wanted to keep this list of requirements for posting in an online class, which are fairly typical for the courses I've taken:
  • "The purpose of the discussion which counted for 20% of the students’ total course grade was to construct and share knowledge."
  • "Each student had to make a minimum of two postings for each of the course’s four modules except in module one where they were required to make three postings."
  • "Students were expected to limit the length of their postings to approximately 100 words."
  • "In relation to the types of postings, for each module, students were required to make at least one original posting and one reply or follow-up to a posting made by another student."
Now, I'm not saying that these requirements don't help people learn, but if you have to force people to post, it's very possible that they just aren't much into the topic. A certain percentage of students in any course are simply jumping through hoops. So is the interaction around learning goals in 43 Things more authentic? Intrinsic motivation may be higher, but is there any evidence of change in participants' lives? I guess we'll see.

This second article appears to be referencing the same study from a slightly different perspective: Students' self analysis of contributions to online asynchronous discussions. A student in the course goes through a very reflective process of analyzing her own participation.

And finally, this third one seems to be part of the same study, with a focus on challenges faced by participants in the study: Graduate Students' Experiences of Challenges in Online Asynchronous Discussions. The introduction has a great list of the benefits of online asynchronous discussions in the context of teaching and learning. Later, the most interesting section focuses on students reacting poorly to mandatory posting guidelines:
"Oliver and Shaw's (2003) investigation of strategies for encouraging student participation in discussions identified and explored factors that encouraged and inhibited student participation. In their analysis of the patterns of posting, the authors found that: 'students were "playing the game" of assessment, making the posting that earned them marks but rarely contributing otherwise' (p.64). The authors concluded as well that "contributions were not strongly interactive' (p.56)."

No comments: