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Encouraging online participation?

Suzanne Ho
Curtin University of Technology
While many Internet based learning software packages include options for implementing online discussion tools - does access to these tools and the knowledge that their online participation will be assessed, encourage students' online participation? Klemm and Snell (1996) contend that "...commonly, many students 'lurk' in the background without making contributions... such discussions are not very rigorous and that the quality of instruction suffers unless the teacher takes special care to create a more challenging learning environment". For educators whose teaching programs include moderating online discussions, the challenge is to facilitate effective student participation. This paper examines selected theories about encouraging online participation and analyses a range of methods for assessing the effectiveness of students' online participation. Within this paper, online participation will be analysed in the context of discussions within Internet based learning environments only. The paper concludes with a presentation of examples of online participation - online interactions between students and myself - illustrating types of activities that can be conducted online.

Participation within online discussions is defined in this paper as the process where learners are actively engaged in online text based communication with each other. Effective participation within online discussions is where such online communication facilitates amongst learners, the development of a deep understanding of the material through sharing and critically evaluating one's own and others' ideas, and where connections are made within elements of the learning material or with independently sourced material. This definition is a synthesis of the ideas proposed by Davis (1999); Klemm and Snell (1996); McKenzie and Murphy (2000), and Owen (2000). The concept of learning through interaction with others is an aspect of Bandura's (1971) "social learning theory", where understanding and learning is acquired through modelling the behaviours, attitudes, and reactions of others.

Author: Suzanne Ho, Lecturer, Curtin University of Technology

Presentation format: Demonstration of teaching

Please cite as: Ho, S. (2002). Encouraging online participation? In Focusing on the Student. Proceedings of the 11th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, 5-6 February 2002. Perth: Edith Cowan University. http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf2002/abstracts/ho-abs.html

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