Investigating student interaction: A forum analysis
Edith Cowan University
Faculty of Computing, Health and Science
School of Computer and Information Science / Centre for Security Research
The advancement of data communications and related technologies has enabled diversity in the delivery of university education. Where previously off-campus education was paper-based, resources and learning support can now be delivered electronically in real-time. This has enabled a closer correspondence in the learning experience of on-campus and off-campus students, by access to the same materials and student support through communication with the lecturer. One key element of this support is the promotion of discussion between students, and increased communication between students and staff. This paper describes a research project into the interaction between students in an online forum and how this applies to Salmon's model of computer mediated communication. This interaction took place on a computer science online forum and provides an example of asynchronous eLearning, stimulated by students themselves. The research examined the contents and themes of a first year discussion forum. Four unique themes related to student learning were identified in the data: seeking and giving meaningful information; sharing perspectives; storytelling as common grounding; and supportive interaction. Within these themes it was discovered that most communication was initiated by off-campus students, however the resolution of issues and academic assistance was provided mainly by on-campus students. Previous research shows that interactivity and communication increases learning for off-campus students, and reduces the isolation experienced by this student cohort. The findings from this research project will be used to inform future teaching to promote better use of the forums for communication between on and off campus students.