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|
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