124 paper

To post or not to post: Undergraduate student perceptions about participating in online discussions

Philippa Gerbic
Faculty of Education
Deakin University

Computer mediated conferencing (CMC) is now a common feature of blended learning environments where students learn in both face to face and online settings. While many teachers recognize the value of online discussions for learning, students appear to have different perspectives. Consequently, their participation in online discussions is often sporadic and not genuinely interactive. This paper examines these issues and provides student perspectives about participation in online discussions which arose from a case study in a conceptually difficult subject. Systems data indicated low numbers of posted messages. Student interviews provide some insights into this lack of participation, and identify the influence of the curriculum design, especially the nature of the learning activity, and its connection to other aspects of the course, for example, assessment and the regular class sessions. Other influential factors include the student’s ideas about learning, managing demands on their time and their acceptance of CMC. The paper also provides recommendations for improving participation in online discussions.

Keywords: CMC, blended learning, online discussions, participation