Different Learners, Different Behaviours: How do different learners engage in online discussion

Yvonne Catherine Bain

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


    The literature highlights contradictions about the use of online discussion to support learning and the need for more research in this area. Ravenscroft (2005) suggests finding out more about the learning that is taking place by focusing on motivational, empathic and social issues. McConnell (2006) highlights the need to understand more about learners’ experiences online. Ellis et al (2007) caution that some students cannot benefit from online discussion. Clearly, further research is needed to find connections between students’ characteristics and their engagement with online discussion to identify the support required to enable different learners to benefit from online experiences.

    This short paper presents findings from a qualitative study into students’ use of online discussion. Data has been collected from three case studies of courses from undergraduate degree programmes in History of Art, Geography and Theology. Data was gathered using interviews, questionnaire surveys and analysis of discussion transcripts. Students’ views of their engagement with the online aspects of their course and their online interactions have been analysed to identify different modes of use (cognitive, social and empathic).

    The analysis reveals some fascinating insights into students’ engagement with online discussion, the strategies that they use when learning online, and their views of learning through online discussion. For example, in the History of Art case study a diversity of study strategies have been uncovered, including students who remained online in order to respond to the postings of others known to also be online, concerns about appropriate use of language in an academic context, and the pressure and competitiveness that can be induced by online discussion. Findings from all three case studies will be available by the time of the conference and will be presented in this paper.

    Whilst recognising the limitations of generalisations made from case studies, the systematic study of three different contexts suggest that the findings may have implications for designers and facilitators of online discussions about how best to prepare and support students learning through online discussion.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 2008
    EventALT-C 2008 - University of Leeds, Leeds, United Kingdom
    Duration: 9 Sept 200811 Sept 2008


    ConferenceALT-C 2008
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
    Internet address


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