Enhancing the Quality of Discussions in Undergraduate Online Courses

18 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2011 Last revised: 12 Aug 2011

See all articles by Kerstin Hamann

Kerstin Hamann

University of Central Florida

Philip H. Pollock

University of Central Florida

Bruce M. Wilson

University of Central Florida

Date Written: 2011

Abstract

An established pedagogical literature suggests that student-student interaction in discussion settings promotes cognitive engagement, student satisfaction, and positive learning outcomes - and may enhance critical thinking skills. Furthermore, a growing body of research indicates that these positive processes and outcomes can be effectively recreated in the online environment. Yet we also know that the effectiveness of online discussions can be conditioned - even compromised - by such factors as group size, gender composition, and differences in the prior academic achievement of participants. In this study, we offer a preliminary look at the efficacy of a conditioning intervention: The role of student preceptors in promoting student interaction and elevating discussion quality. Using data from 26 discussion groups and 3 substantive discussions, we measure quantitative indicators of discussion activity under two quasi-experimental conditions: preceptor-as-student and preceptor-as-GTA. In the control condition, no student preceptor was present. In terms of quantitative indicators of discussion activity, we find no emergent differences between the preceptor intervention and the control.

Suggested Citation

Hamann, Kerstin and Pollock, Philip H. and Wilson, Bruce M., Enhancing the Quality of Discussions in Undergraduate Online Courses (2011). APSA 2011 Annual Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1903285

Kerstin Hamann (Contact Author)

University of Central Florida ( email )

Dept. Of Political Science P.O. Box 161356
Orlando, FL 32816-1400
United States
407-823 2608 (Phone)
407-823 0051 (Fax)

Philip H. Pollock

University of Central Florida ( email )

4000 Central Florida Blvd
Orlando, FL 32816-1400
United States

Bruce M. Wilson

University of Central Florida ( email )

4000 Central Florida Blvd
Orlando, FL 32816-1400
United States

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