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Strategies for grading online discussions: Effects on discussions and classroom community in internet-based university courses


RESEARCH INTO WAYS of increasing sense of community in online courses is important as students with strong feelings of community are more likely to persist in their online educational programs than students who feel alienated and alone. An ex post facto causal-comparative study was conducted at a Christian university to investigate how different strategies for grading online discussions influenced both the discussions and sense of classroom community in 18 graduate-level courses (N=262) delivered at a distance using the BlackboardSM e-learning system. Evidence was produced that suggests grading strategies influence online discussions and discussions are related to students’ sense of community. In particular, there were significantly more discussions per student per week and higher levels of sense of community in courses where discussions were a graded course component. Moreover, students with stronger feelings of being connected with others in their online courses also felt more satisfied that their educational goals were being met by their distance education program.

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Correspondence to Alfred P. Rovai.

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Alfred P. Rovai is an Associate Professor of Education at Regent University in Virginia Beach where he has been teaching research, statistics, and program evaluation courses in an EdD program for three years using the BlackboardSM e-learning system. His experiences in teaching over the Internet go back several years. He was an online instructor for UCLA Extension from 1998 to 2000 where he taught courses in online teaching tools and online assessment theory in the university’s Online Teaching Program. He was also a Visiting Assistant Professor at Old Dominion University from 1996 to 2000 where he taught educational technology and research courses using both distance education and traditional formats. Dr. Rovai’s research interests are in the areas of sense of community, distance learning, and student persistence in online programs.

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Rovai, A.P. Strategies for grading online discussions: Effects on discussions and classroom community in internet-based university courses. J. Comput. High. Educ. 15, 89–107 (2003).

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