Discussion on Strategy Dilemmas

  • Khe Foon Hew
  • Wing Sum Cheung


This chapter discusses five main strategy or solution dilemmas that educators might encounter in asynchronous online discussion environments. Strategy dilemmas refer to those strategies 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 strategies they are considering implementing. The five strategy dilemmas include the following: use of grades or marks, use of number of posting guideline and posting deadlines, use of message labels or sentence openers (online scaffolds), extending the duration of the online discussion, and instructor/facilitation.


Asynchronous online discussion Strategies for online discussion Solutions for online discussions Mixed results Dilemmas Use of grades Use of marks Posting guideline Posting deadlines Message labels Sentence openers Instructor facilitation Duration of discussion 


  1. An, H., Shin, S., & Lim, K. (2009). The effects of different instructor facilitation approaches on students’ interactions during asynchronous online discussions. Computers and Education, 53, 749–760.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Arend, B. (2009). Encouraging critical thinking in online threaded discussions. The Journal of Educators Online, 6(1). Retrieved on February 15, 2012 from
  3. Bai, H. (2009). Facilitating students’ critical thinking in online discussion: An instructor’s experience. Journal of Interactive Online Learning, 8(2), 156–164.Google Scholar
  4. Baker, M., Hansen, T., Joiner, R., & Traum, D. (1999). The role of grounding in collaborative learning tasks. In P. Dillenbourg (Ed.), Collaborative learning: Cognitive and computational approaches (pp. 31–63). Oxford: Pergamon.Google Scholar
  5. Baran, E., & Correia, A.-P. (2009). Student-led facilitation strategies in online discussions. Distance Education, 30(3), 339–361.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Baron, J., & Keller, M. (2003). Use of rubrics in online assessment. In the Evaluations and Assessment Conference 2003. Adelaide: University of South Australia.Google Scholar
  7. Beaudin, B. P. (1999). Keeping online asynchronous discussions on topic. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 3(2), 41–53.Google Scholar
  8. Beers, P. J., Boshuizen, H. P. A., Kirschner, P. A., & Gijselaers, W. H. (2005). Computer support for knowledge construction in collaborative learning environments. Computers in Human Behavior, 21, 623–643.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Berge, Z. L. (1995). Facilitating computer conferencing: Recommendations from the field. Educational Technology, 35(1), 22–30.Google Scholar
  10. Brewer, S., & Klein, J. D. (2006). Types of positive interdependence and affiliation motive in an asynchronous, collaborative learning environment. Educational Technology Research and Development, 54(4), 331–354.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bullen, M. (1998). Participation and critical thinking in online university distance education. Journal of Distance Education, 13(2). Retrieved on February 23, 2012 from
  12. Cheung, W. S., & Hew, K. F. (2005). Factors affecting learners’ satisfaction on the use of asynchronous online discussion in a hypermedia design environment. Journal of Southeast Asian Education, 5(1&2), 56–70.Google Scholar
  13. Cifuentes, L., Murphy, K. L., Segur, R., & Kodali, S. (1997). Design considerations for computer conferences. Journal of Research on Computing in Education, 30(2), 177–201.Google Scholar
  14. Correia, A. P., & Baran, E. (2010). Lessons learned on facilitating asynchronous discussions for online learning. Educacao, Formacao & Tecnologias, 3(1), 59–67.Google Scholar
  15. Correia, A. P., & Davis, N. E. (2007). The design of collaboration in the virtual classroom. In M. Simonson (Ed.), 30th annual proceedings of selected papers on the practice of educational communications and technology (pp. 84–87). Bloomington, IN: Association for Educational Communications and Technology.Google Scholar
  16. Dennen, V. P. (2005). From message posting to learning dialogues: Factors affecting learner participation in asynchronous discussion. Distance Education, 26(1), 127–148.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Dillenbourg, P. (2002). Over-scripting CSCL: The risks of blending collaborative learning with instructional design. In P. A. Kirschner (Ed.), Three worlds of CSCL: Can we support CSCL? (pp. 61–91). Heerlen: Open Universiteit Nederland.Google Scholar
  18. Dysthe, O. (2002). The learning potential of a web-mediated discussion in a university course. Studies in Higher Education, 27(3), 339–352.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gerbic, P. (2006). To post or not to post: Undergraduate student perceptions about participating in online discussions. In Who’s learning? Whose technology? Proceedings Ascilite Sydney 2006. Retrieved on January 27, 2012 from
  20. Goodyear, P., Salmon, G., Spector, J. M., Steeples, C., & Tickner, S. (2001). Competences for online teaching: A special report. Educational Technology Research and Development, 49(1), 65–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Guzdial, M., & Turns, J. (2000). Effective discussion through a computer-mediated anchored forum. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 9(4), 437–469.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hammond, M. (1999). Issues associated with participation in on line forums—The case of the communicative learner. Education and Information Technologies, 4(4), 353–367.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hew, K. F., & Cheung, W. S. (2008). Attracting student participation in asynchronous online discussions: A case study of peer facilitation. Computers & Education, 51, 1111–1124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hew, K. F., & Cheung, W. S. (2009). Participation in student-facilitated discussion forums: An empirical analysis of facilitators’ habits of mind. In B. H. Tan & S. R. Galea (Eds.), Proceedings of the 14th International Conference on Thinking 2009 (pp. 268–279). Kuala Lumpur: Universiti Putra Malaysia.Google Scholar
  25. Hew, K. F., & Cheung, W. S. (2010a). Possible factors influencing Asian students’ degree of participation in peer-facilitated online discussion forums: A case study. Asia Pacific Journal of Education, 30(1), 85–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hew, K. F., & Cheung, W. S. (2010b). Fostering higher knowledge construction levels in online discussion forums: An exploratory case study. International Journal of Web-based Learning and Teaching Technologies, 5(4), 44–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hew, K. F., & Cheung, W. S. (2011). Higher-level knowledge construction in asynchronous online discussions: An analysis of group size, duration of online discussion, and student facilitation techniques. Instructional Science, 39(3), 303–319.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hew, K. F., Cheung, W. S., & Jumain, S. N. (2010a). Critical thinking in asynchronous online discussions: Examining the role of the student facilitator. In Z. Abas, et al. (Eds.), Proceedings of global learn Asia Pacific 2010 (pp. 4210–4215). Chesapeake, VA: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education.Google Scholar
  29. Hew, K. F., Cheung, W. S., & Ng, C. S. L. (2010b). Student contribution in asynchronous online discussion: a review of the research and empirical exploration. Instructional Science, 38(6), 571–606.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hiltz. R. S. (1988). Learning in a virtual classroom. Final evaluation report (Vol. 25). Newark, N.J.: Computerized Conferencing and Communications Centre.Google Scholar
  31. Hummel, H. G. K., Burgos, D., Tattersall, C., Brouns, F., Kurvers, H., & Koper, R. (2005a). Encouraging contributions in learning networks using incentive mechanisms. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 21, 355–365.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hummel, H. G. K., Tattersall, C., Burgos, D., Brouns, F., Kurvers, H., & Koper, R. (2005b). Facilitating participation: From the EML web site to the learning network for learning design. Interactive Learning Environments, 13(1–2), 55–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Ikpeze, C. (2007). Small group collaboration in peer-led electronic discourse: An analysis of group dynamics and interactions involving preservice and inservice teachers. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, 15(3), 383–407.Google Scholar
  34. Jackson, K. (2010). What value assessment rubrics in shaping students’ engagement in asynchronous online discussions? In C. H. Steel, M. J. Keppel, P. Gerbic & S. Housego (Eds.), Curriculum, technology & transformation for an unknown future. Proceedings ascilite Sydney 2010 (pp. 454–458). Retrieved on January 27, 2012 from
  35. Jeong, A., & Frazier, S. (2008). How day of posting affects growth patterns of asynchronous discussion threads and computer-supported collaborative argumentation. British Journal of Educational Technology, 39(5), 875–887.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Jeong, A., & Joung, S. (2007). Scaffolding collaborative argumentation in asynchronous discussions with message constraints and message labels. Computers & Education, 48, 427–445.Google Scholar
  37. Klemm, W. R. (1998). Eight ways to get students more engaged in online conferences. T.H.E. Journal, 26(1), 62–64.Google Scholar
  38. Lang, D. (2000). Critical thinking in web courses. Syllabus, 9, 20–24.Google Scholar
  39. Lewis, K. O. (2006). Evaluation of online group activities: Intra-group member peer evaluation. Paper presented at the 22nd Annual Conference on Distance Teaching and Learning. Retrieved on February 16, 2012 from
  40. Light, P., Nesbitt, E., Light, V., & White, S. (2000). Variety is the spice of life: Student use of CMC in the context of campus-based study. Computers and Education, 34(3), 257–267.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Mazzolini, M., & Maddison, S. (2007). When to jump in: The role of the instructor in online discussion forums. Computers & Education, 49, 193–213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. McNamara, J., & Burton, K. (2010). Assessment of online discussion forums for law students. Journal of University Teaching and Learning, 6(2). Retrieved on August 12, 2011 from
  43. Murphy, E., & Coleman, E. (2004). Graduate students’ experiences of challenges in online asynchronous discussions. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, 30(2). Retrieved on August 5, 2011 from
  44. Murphy, K. L., Cifuentes, L., Yakimovicz, A., Segur, R., Mahoney, S., & Kodali, S. (1996). Students assume the mantle of moderating computer conferences: A case study. American Journal of Distance Education, 10(3), 20–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Ng, C. S. L., Cheung, W. S., & Hew, K. F. (2010). Solving ill-structured problems in asynchronous online discussions: Built-in scaffolds vs no scaffolds. Interactive Learning Environments, 18(2), 115–134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. O’ Grady, G. K. (2001). Maximising the potential of computer mediated discussion: guidelines for facilitation. Centre for Development of Teaching and Learning (CDTL) Brief, 4(4). Retrieved on September 1, 2011 from
  47. Oliver, M., & Shaw, G. P. (2003). Asynchronous discussion in support of medical education. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 7(1), 56–67.Google Scholar
  48. Palmer, S., Holt, D., & Bray, S. (2008). Does the discussion help? The impact of a formally assessed online discussion on final student results. British Journal of Educational Technology, 39(5), 847–858. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8535.2007.00780.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Paulsen, M. F. (1995). Moderating educational computer conferences. In Z. L. Berge & M. P. Collins (Eds.), Computer mediated communication and the online classroom: Vol. 3. Distance Learning (pp. 81–89). Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, Inc.Google Scholar
  50. Pearson, J. (1999). Electronic networking in initial teacher education: Is a virtual faculty of education possible? Computers and Education, 32(3), 221–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Pena-Shaff, J. B., & Nicholls, C. (2004). Analyzing student interactions and meaning construction in computer bulletin board discussions. Computers & Education, 42(3), 243–265.Google Scholar
  52. Poole, D. M. (2000). Student participation in a discussion-oriented online course: A case study. Journal of Research on Computing in Education, 33(2), 162–177.Google Scholar
  53. Rourke, L., & Anderson, T. (2002). Using peer teams to lead online discussions. Journal of Interactive Media in Education, 1. Retrieved on August 31, 2011 from
  54. Salmon, G. (2004). E-moderating: The key to teaching and learning online. London: Taylor & Francis Group.Google Scholar
  55. Salter, G. (2000). Making use of online discussion groups. Australian Educational Computing, 15(2), 5–10.Google Scholar
  56. Seo, K. K. (2007). Utilizing peer moderating in online discussions: Addressing the controversy between teacher moderation and nonmoderation. The American Journal of Distance Education, 21(1), 21–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Smet, M. D., Keer, H. V., & Valcke, M. (2008). Blending asynchronous discussion groups and peer tutoring in higher education: An exploratory study of online peer tutoring behavior. Computers & Education, 50, 207–223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Tagg, A. C. (1994). Leadership from within: Student moderation of computer conferences. American Journal of Distance Education, 8(3), 40–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Winiecki, D. J., & Chyung, Y. (August, 1998). Keeping the thread: Helping distance education students and instructors keep track of asynchronous discussions. In Proceedings of the 14th Annual Conference on Distance Teaching & Learning, 98 (pp. 451–460). Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin-Madison.Google Scholar
  60. Yeh, H. T., & Buskirk, E. V. (2005). An instructor’s methods of facilitating students’ participation in asynchronous online discussion. In C. Crawford, D. A. Willis, R. Carlsen, I. Gibson, K. McFerrin, J. Price, & R. Weber (Eds.), Proceedings of society for information technology and teacher education international conference 2005 (pp. 682–688). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.Google Scholar
  61. Yeh, H.-T., & Lahman, M. (2007). Pre-service teachers’ perceptions of asynchronous online discussion on Blackboard. The Qualitative Report, 12(4), 680–704.Google Scholar
  62. Zhao, N., & McDougall, D. (2005). Cultural factors affecting Chinese students’ participation in asynchronous online learning. In G. Richards (Ed.), Proceedings of world conference on E-learning in corporate, government, healthcare, and higher education 2005 (pp. 2723–2729). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Institute of Education, Learning Sciences, and TechnologiesNanyang Technological UniversitySingaporeSingapore

Personalised recommendations