Instructional Science

, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp 115-152

First online:

Content analysis of online discussion in an applied educational psychology course

  • Noriko HaraAffiliated withDepartment of Instructional Systems Technology, School of Education, Indiana University
  • , Curtis Jay BonkAffiliated withDepartment of Counseling and Educational Psychology, School of Education, Indiana University Email author 
  • , Charoula AngeliAffiliated withLearning Research and Development Center, University of Pittsburgh

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This study analyzed discussion in an online conferencethat supplemented class discussion using aninstructional method called the starter-wrappertechnique within a traditional graduate leveleducational psychology course. Various quantitativemeasures were recorded to compare instructor andstudent participation rates. In addition, Henri's(1992) model for content analysis of computer-mediatedcommunication was employed to qualitatively analyzethe electronic discourse. Using this model, five keyvariables were examined: (1) student participationrates; (2) electronic interaction patterns; (3) socialcues within student messages; (4) cognitive andmetacognitive components of student messages; and (5)depth of processing -- surface or deep -- within messageposting. Transcript content analyses showed that,while students tended to post just the one requiredcomment per week in the conference, their messageswere lengthy, cognitively deep, embedded with peerreferences, and indicative of a student orientedenvironment. Moreover, students were using high levelcognitive skills such as inferencing and judgment aswell as metacognitive strategies related to reflectingon experience and self-awareness. Weekly conferenceactivity graphs revealed that student electroniccomments became more interactive over time, but werehighly dependent on the directions of discussionstarter. To better understand the impact ofelectronic conferencing discourse, modifications toHenri's model as well as qualitative researchsuggestions were offered.

computer conferencing online learning technology cognitive skills metacognition social interaction educational psychology content analysis