Spill-Over Effects in Online Discussions? Assessing the Effectiveness of Student Preceptors
22 Pages Posted: 2 Feb 2012 Last revised: 31 Dec 2012
Date Written: 2012
Studies on active learning in college classrooms evince that student-student interaction in discussion settings is beneficial to learning as it promotes cognitive engagement, student satisfaction, and positive learning outcomes including higher-order learning and critical thinking skills. While these findings apply primarily to the face-to-face classroom, recent research indicates that these positive outcomes can also be effectively recreated in the online environment. 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 23 discussion groups in a large (279 students) online course, we measure qualitative 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. We find that high-quality postings made by a student preceptor indeed triggers higher-quality postings by other students, especially those that post in temporal proximity to the preceptor.
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