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First Impressions: The First Two Posts and their Influence on the Development of Online Question-Answer Discussion Threads

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Digital Technologies and Learning

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.716.1 - 22.716.13



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Paper Authors


Michael Hergenrader University of Southern California, Information Sciences Institute

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I am currently a junior at the University of Southern California, majoring in Computer Science and Spanish.

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Joanna Drummond University of Pittsburgh


Jihie Kim University of Southern California

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Jihie Kim is the Principal Investigator of the Intelligent Technologies for Teaching and Learning group in the USC Information Sciences Institute ( She is also a Research Assistant Professor in the Computer Science Department at the University of Southern California (USC). Dr. Kim received a Ph.D. from the USC, and a master's and a bachelor's degrees from the Seoul National University.

Her current interests include pedagogical discourse analysis, human-computer interaction, social network assistance, and assessment of student collaborative online activities. She leads synergistic work among machine learning experts, educational psychologists, NLP researchers, and STEM instructors. She is the PI of five NSF projects including the CCLI/PedDiscourse, CCLI/PedWiki and NSDL/SocRecomm projects under the EHR Directorate and CreativeIT/PedGames and IIS/PedWorkflow projects under the CISE Directorate. Under the retired PedDiscourse effort, her team designed, deployed and evaluated software tools to assist online dialogue in the context of a discussion board.

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Relating question and answer exchange patterns with degrees of student participation in a computer science course forumDiscussion boards have become an essential tool for communication in higher education,in part due to their integration into course management systems that are now centrallysupported by many colleges and universities. With enrollments in online computerscience and engineering courses increasing, we want to understand how students interactwith the instructor and other students, and how they learn through that interaction. Thus,our objective is to understand which student and instructor actions enable the best usageof online discussion forums for computer science and engineering courses.In this paper, we present an analysis of how different types of question and answerexchanges patterns correlate with discussion characteristics such as length and followingpost type. In modeling question and answer exchange patterns, we use Speech Acts thatrelates pairs of messages and define the roles that individual messages play, such as aquestion, answer, elaboration or/and correction. Speech Act sub-categories further definedifferent types of question and answer contributions in online discussions.We examined how different types of answers or questions to students’ messages affectfurther discussion on the same or a similar topic. The preliminary results from thesecomputer science students’ discussions indicate thatelaborated answers and hints may promote more participation from students and furtherdiscussions on related topics, in the form of longer threads. We also found preliminaryevidence that these elaborated answers and hints may not only encourage new posts in thesame thread, but promote more complex following posts. The project is theoreticallyaligned to well-studied frameworks: Self-efficacy theory and Sense of Community theory.

Hergenrader, M., & Drummond, J., & Kim, J. (2011, June), First Impressions: The First Two Posts and their Influence on the Development of Online Question-Answer Discussion Threads Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17997

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