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Effective Discussion through a computer-mediated anchored forum

Mark Guzdial, Jennifer Turns
Erstpublikation in: Journal of the Learning Sciences, Vol. 9, No. 4, pp. 437–469
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Mark GuzdialComputer-mediated discussion forums (such as newsgroups or those in instructional management software environments) are becoming common in higher education. Such forums are interesting because they are not only one of the easiest technologies to add to a class but may also provide an important learning opportunity for students. However, simply making a discussion forum available does not mean that it will be used effectively to enable learning. In this paper, we explore the idea that specific features of a discussion forum may increase the likelihood of effective discussions taking place within the forum. We define effective discussions as those that are sustained and are focused on topics related to class learning goals. We then describe the specifications for an electronic discussion forum-a computer-mediated anchored discussion forum-that we propose makes sustained on-topic discussion more likely. We report on the results of two studies that support this proposal. We end by exploring implications for research into computer-supported discussion tools for learning and their design.
Von Mark Guzdial, Jennifer Turns im Text Effective Discussion through a computer-mediated anchored forum (2000)
Denise Da RinThe article bases on the fact that computer-mediated forums are becoming common in higher education. But it is not enough to implement such technologies. Simply making a discussion forum available does not mean that it will be used effectively to enhance learning. The authors explore the idea that specific features of a discussion forum may increas the likelihood of effective discussions taking place within a forum. The article focuses on the implications for research into, and design of, computer-supported discussion tools for learning.
In a first step the researchers analyze different failures providing a computer-based discussion forum promoting learning and view this failures modes as part of a design challenge. They then define a specific type of discussion forum, a computer-mediated anchored discussion forum, that has the potential to enable sustained on-topic dis-cussion. They introduce their discussion forum tool, CaMILE, as an example of a computer-mediated anchored forum and present two studies showing the impact of CaMILE as compared with that of newsgroups.
In the first study they found no differences in participation levels but significantly longer threads lengths in CaMILE disussions, suggesting that CaMILE discussions were more sustainded. Encouraged by the finding in Study 1 they compared news-group use in a class with CaMILE use in the same class during the subsequent term. Finally the study points out the value of anchors in facilitating effective discussion. An anchor is defined as a document or topic in which students may be interested in discussing, and a successful anchor is one that engenders a sustained discussion in the collaboration forum. At the end the authors make a suggestion for future research developing a theory about what makes a good discussion anchor.
The study reveals some hints how effectiveness of discussions in computer mediated forums can be enhanced. The reviewer would have expected a more in depth analysis of the research topic or a broader examination of possible pitfalls. Nevertheless the article provides an insight into the problems of computer-mediated discussion tools and their design.
Von Denise Da Rin, erfasst im Biblionetz am 26.08.2006

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