Instructional Science

, Volume 41, Issue 2, pp 323–343 | Cite as

Broadening the notion of participation in online discussions: examining patterns in learners’ online listening behaviors

  • Alyssa Friend WiseEmail author
  • Jennifer Speer
  • Farshid Marbouti
  • Ying-Ting Hsiao


While a great deal of research has studied the messages students contribute to electronic discussion forums, productive participation in online learning conversations requires more than just making posts. One important pre-condition for productive interactivity and knowledge construction is engagement with the posts contributed by others. In this study, these actions (how learners interact with the existing discussion; which posts they attend to, when, and how) are conceptualized as “online listening behaviors” and are studied in the context of a large undergraduate business course taught in a blended format. Clickstream data was collected for 96 participants from 3 week-long online discussions to solve organizational behavior challenges in groups of 10–13. Listening behaviors accounted for almost three-quarters of the time learners spent in the discussions, and cluster analysis identified three distinct patterns of behavior: (1) Superficial Listeners, Intermittent Talkers; (2) Concentrated Listeners, Integrated Talkers; and (3) Broad Listeners, Reflective Talkers. The clusters differed in the depth, breadth, temporal contiguity, and reflectivity of their listening as well as in their patterns of speaking. An illustrative case study of how the listening behaviors were enacted by one student from each cluster over time was used to deepen the characterization and interpretation of each cluster. The results indicate that online listening is a complex phenomenon and a substantial component of students’ participation in online discussions. Findings are compared to the previous work on student learning approaches and implications for practice and future research are discussed.


Online learning Computer mediated communication Asynchronous discussion groups Learning strategies Student participation Mixed methods 



This work was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Council of Canada.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alyssa Friend Wise
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jennifer Speer
    • 1
  • Farshid Marbouti
    • 1
  • Ying-Ting Hsiao
    • 1
  1. 1.Simon Fraser UniversitySurreyCanada

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