, Volume 38, Issue 6, pp 571-606
Date: 15 Jan 2009

Student contribution in asynchronous online discussion: a review of the research and empirical exploration

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Abstract

The increasingly prevalent use of Internet in schools and homes has resulted in asynchronous online discussion becoming an increasingly common means to facilitate dialogue between instructors and students, as well as students and students beyond the boundaries of their physical classrooms. This article is organized into two main sections. In the first section, we review 50 empirical studies in order to identify the factors leading to limited student contribution. Limited student contribution is defined as students making few or no postings, or students exhibiting surface-level thinking or low-level knowledge construction in online discussions. We then identify the various empirically based guidelines to address the factors. In the second section, we discuss three potential guideline dilemmas that educators may encounter: (a) use of grades, (b) use of number of posting guideline, and (c) instructor-facilitation. These are guidelines where previous empirical research shows mixed results when they are implemented. Acknowledging the dilemmas is essential for educators and researchers to make informed decisions about the discussion guidelines they are considering implementing. Finally, we report two exploratory case studies on student-facilitation that we conducted. Using students as facilitators may be an alternative solution to educators who wish to avoid the instructor-facilitation guideline dilemma.