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Classifying Web Based Discussion Forum Tasks And Learning Outcomes Of Undergraduate Information Science Students

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Emerging Trends in Engineering Education Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.363.1 - 12.363.9



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Paper Authors


Kausalai Wijekumar The Pennsylvania State University Beaver

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Dr. Wijekumar is Asst. Professor of Information Sciences and Technology at Penn State Beaver. She holds degrees in Electronics Engineering, Computer Science, and Instructional Technology. Her research interests are in intelligent tutoring technologies, the effects of computers on human knowledge structures, and mentoring students in information sciences, mathematics, and engineering. She has received over 30 million dollars in grants from various fundings agencies for developing intelligent technologies for learning environments.

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Brian Cameron The Pennsylvania State University

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Classifying Web-Based Discussion Forum Tasks and Learning Outcomes in Undergraduate Information Science Courses


The use of web-based discussion forums to enhance traditional classrooms and web-based distance learning environments are growing exponentially. Research on discussion forums have produced mixed results on learning outcomes. The purpose of this research was to classify the tasks that were assigned to undergraduate information sciences students using discussion forums and to examine the effects of these tasks on the learner’s knowledge outcomes. Results showed that debates produced the most favorable learning outcomes while recall and simple posting of ideas resulted in the poorest learning outcomes. The results have implications for all instructors using web-based discussion forums in their classes.


Web-based technologies are being introduced to traditional and on-line classrooms at an exponential rate with little thought being given to the quality of the tools or their effects on the learners. One area that is frequently touted as exceptional on-line activities is the use of discussion boards to supplement class activities or as a standalone learning activity1,2,15. Even though discussion boards can foster a sense of community and can help learners post their thoughts on discussion topic12 they can only be successful in helping students learn complex thinking skills like problem solving, argumentation, and critical thinking if the instructor knows how to encourage thoughtful postings and discussions3. “Research has shown that good learning environments require active participation of the learner in the construction and use of knowledge; teachers who can provide learning opportunities, feedback, reflection, and scaffolding; and learning environments that can facilitate and motivate both the learner and teacher to do what they do best6”17.

Most of the current research on the use of discussion forums in learning environments has concentrated on the social aspects of these forums5,12. Some research that has reviewed discussions as phases have concentrated on tracking the students through different phases of interactions like comparing information, discovery, negotiation of meaning, to testing and co- construction of knowledge11. Other research has studied the personality types of learners and how each personality type interacts within discussion forums. Fahy & Ally9 studied the Kolb learning style convergers resulted in better posting related to high level problem solving tasks. Finally, research has been conducted on the types of conferencing systems and their effects on learning outcomes8, how discussions can be used in classrooms10, fostering social collaboration14, and knowledge creation13.

None of the current research studies have focused on relating the assigned tasks and the discussion forum outcomes. For example, can a discussion forum task framed as shown in figure 1 differ in the posting quality compared to a discussion task framed as shown in figure 2? The example shown in Figure 1 sets the context for the problem followed by questions about advantages and disadvantages of the “networked” society. They are also instructed to plan for a

Wijekumar, K., & Cameron, B. (2007, June), Classifying Web Based Discussion Forum Tasks And Learning Outcomes Of Undergraduate Information Science Students Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2210

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