Creating Effective Online Discussions: Instructor and Student Roles

Document Type


Presentation Date


Conference Name

at National Communication Association Annual Convention

Conference Location

Chicago, IL


This paper is a first attempt to explore the dynamics of learning groups in the context of online discussion forums. Given the spread of online learning, especially using computer mediated communication, the importance of this kind of research cannot be overstated. Teaching online courses is unexplored territory for many instructors. Understanding how to use the powerful learning techniques involved in cooperative group learning in this context is imperative. The authors analyzed the content of twenty asynchronous discussion forums within an online course in family communication. Their findings indicated that such groups do social messages at a fairly high rate, that participation seems to be fairly evenly distributed among members, that instructor messages have no apparent effect on final products, and that competitive student messages have no apparent effect on the final product. However, they also found that two types of messages: orienting/giving information and showing solidarity were found more frequently in groups who reached higher quality final products. This research opens many questions about the most effective ways to structure this new learning situation.



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