Online Discussions: Developing Insight through Synchronous and Asynchronous Conversation

By Karen Armstrong.

Published by Ubiquitous Learning: An International Journal

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Online discussions are an important component of both blended and online courses. This paper examines the varieties of online discussions and considers the possible pitfalls before focusing on the possibilities of this tool for enhanced learning. The discussion begins with a brief history and examples of early forays into online learning. It summarizes the possible perils inherent in this educational tool and gives examples from the author’s courses. Next, the discussion moves to a consideration of the varieties of online discussions in both synchronous and asynchronous formats. Finally and most importantly, the paper explores specific strategies to provide both depth and breadth in order to make this tool a significant part of the learning experience instead of just a frill and tool for off-task talk, important those these social bonding constructions may be. Through an analysis of different questions and taxonomies, a suitable framework can be selected for specific courses and learning experiences in order that students deepen their professional understanding through thoughtful collaborative dialogue.

Keywords: Online Discussions, Computer-mediated Communication (CMC) Computer-supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL), and e-learning

Ubiquitous Learning: An International Journal, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp.1-8. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 478.050KB).

Dr. Karen Armstrong

Course Director and Course Author, Faculty of Education (York University) and Faculty of External Programs and Learning Technologies (University of British Columbia, York University and University of British Columbia, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Karen Armstrong writes and teaches online for University of British Columbia. She is also a Course Director in the Faculty of Education at York University. Karen began her career in education as a secondary school reading specialist in Quebec and has taught various elementary and secondary grade levels in Ontario and BC, in both private and public schools. She obtained an MA from the University of Waterloo and a doctorate in Education from the University of British Columbia. Her MA thesis focused on drama through the ages (Shakespeare, Shaw and Brecht). Her doctoral dissertation was a paradigmatic analysis of 20th century research on response to literature. She has participated on numerous professional committees and has presented at international and local conferences. Her current interests are online learning, multi-literacies, paradigm shifts and reading comprehension.