ASIS&T 2006 START Conference Manager    

Different types of human interaction in online discussion: An examination of using online discussion forum

Jeong-Mee Lee, Ph.D.

ASIS&T Annual Meeting - 2006 (ASIS&T 2006)
Austin, Texas, November 3-9, 2006


In online learning environments, it is common for students to feel isolated due to the lack of immediate social interaction. Furthermore, students need to change themselves to more be active and self-directed, not passive in their learning procedure (Muirhead, 2001). A common method to increase interaction in online learning environments is asynchronous discussion such as online discussion forum. Online discussion forums are one of the common features for promoting interactions in online learning environments. It allows asynchronous communication among the students as well as students to the instructor. It is one means of allowing students to communicate without time and place limits, and to post questions as well as share their opinions and queries as they interact with others.

The interactions of computer-mediated communication are quite different from those of traditional classroom based communication. There have been many studies examining the conceptual framework underlying interaction in distance learning. Interactions in online discussion forums may have limitations. The absence of social cues and emotions such as eye contact and body language may influence student interaction. Understanding student interaction and the patterns of the interaction in discussion forum are essential to improve online learning quality as well as to understand human information in asynchronous communication environment.

This present study will explore the nature of the use of asynchronous computer-mediated communication; additionally it will provide a structured analysis of students’ participations in discussion forums as well as the types and possible patterns of students' interactions in two online classes. This research asks two main questions: How can students interact in an asynchronous communication environment such as discussion forum? What are the most distinguished types or patterns of interaction while they interact with others using this discussion forum?

The following sub-questions will also be addressed in this study.

1. What kind of different types of interaction existed in students' interaction in the discussion forum?

2. Are there any patterns existing in students' interaction when they communicate with others in discussion forum?

3. If there is any patterns existing in students' interaction, is there any particular patterns of postings that inspiring other students' involvement?

4. How do students perceive their interaction in online discussion?

One limitation to this research is that there is no guarantee that interactions in this study have actually appeared in all other online discussion forums. However, the researcher feels that this limitation exists globally in all interactions of all types. This study may also pinpoint the general interactions in the communication that takes place in the discussion forum.

The student surveys and the result of the content analysis will be correlated to the worksheet data for an overall look at the interactions in discussion forum.

Discussion forums are a valuable feature for building community among online students. This research will provide a helpful blue print for understanding user interactions on discussion forums in online learning environments. On a concrete level, this research will produce a list of patterns of online interactions, categorized by the types of information. This study will provide a working model of course design when active participation is necessary. Finally, it is hoped that this research will provide ways to amplify the effectiveness of online education and the understanding of human interactions in online learning environment.

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