Whose technology enables learning through discussions? The ‘shoutboard’: A new design for asynchronous discussions
The literature confirms that learning occurs through discussions. However, the question of ‘how’ discussions are conducted in an online environment continues to challenge educators. Technology has recapitulated a discussion approach to aid learning by building tools to enable discussions between multiple users. There appears to be a short supply of research which considers whether these current technologies used in the common Learning Management Systems (LMS) and computer conferencing (CC) enhance or limit learning. The cognitive processing required of learners when they engage in the common threaded messages on many of the LMS platforms, is laboured and cognitively demanding. The structure and content appears to be driven by the need for e-management and e-administration, relegating learning to a secondary position. This paper discusses the psychological reading process and how, if used to drive the technology, the reading and processing of content within discussions may be accessed more easily and expanded to include debate and compare and contrast focussed discussions, thus minimizing the cognitive work required for reading posted discussions. The level of interactivity and sociability is also examined. The rationale, development, trial and evaluation of the ‘shoutboard’ are reported.
Keywords: online learning, discussions, cognitive processing