Attending to others’ posts in asynchronous discussions: Learners’ online “listening” and its relationship to speaking

  • Alyssa Friend WiseEmail author
  • Simone Nicole Hausknecht
  • Yuting Zhao


Theoretical models of collaborative learning through online discussions presuppose that students generally attend to others’ posts. However, a succession of studies over the last decade has shown this assumption to be unwarranted. Instead, research indicates that learners attend to others’ posts in diverse and particular ways—an activity we have conceptualized as online “listening.” In this study, we take an important step forward in developing a robust theory of online listening by examining the relationship between how learners “listen” (access existing posts) and “speak” (contribute posts) in online discussions. Ten variables indexing four dimensions of students’ listening (breadth, depth, temporal contiguity and revisitation) and five variables indexing three dimensions of students’ speaking (discursiveness, depth of content and reflectivity) were calculated for 31 students participating in 6 week-long online discussions as part of an undergraduate educational psychology course. Multi-level mixed-model linear regressions indicated that responsiveness of students’ posts was positively predicted by how often they revisited previously read peer posts, and negatively related to a greater number of posts in the discussion overall. The depth of posts’ contents was predicted by the percentage of posts viewed that students actually read (as opposed to scanned). An exploratory follow-up analysis indicated that these listening-speaking relationships manifest differently over time for distinct subsets of learners (e.g., a decrease in variable pairs versus corresponding fluctuations around stable levels). Put together, results suggest that when students take the time to read and re-read their peers’ posts there are related benefits in the quality of the posts they contribute.


Asynchronous discussion groups Online learning Student participation Computer mediated communication 



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


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Copyright information

© International Society of the Learning Sciences, Inc. and Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alyssa Friend Wise
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Simone Nicole Hausknecht
    • 1
  • Yuting Zhao
    • 1
  1. 1.Simon Fraser UniversitySurreyCanada
  2. 2.Faculty of EducationSimon Fraser UniversitySurreyCanada

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