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Mediators of Participation in Online Discussions

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Innovative Use of Technology and the Internet in Engineering Education

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.896.1 - 24.896.11



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Paper Authors


Erin Shaw University of Southern California

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Erin Shaw is a Computer Scientist at the University of Southern California's Information Sciences Institute, a research center at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. Her research focuses on modeling and assessing student knowledge in the areas of science and mathematics, experimenting with new technologies for aiding assessment in distance learning, and studying computer mediated social dialogue and team collaboration in post-secondary engineering education. She received an MA in Online and Distance Education from The Open University, an MS in Computer Graphics from Cornell University and a BS in Mathematics from Massachusetts State University, Fitchburg. Ms. Shaw has directed research as a co-principal investigator on several National Science Foundation sponsored grants. In 2013, she served as a STEM outreach specialist at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering.

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Jihie Kim University of Southern California

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Jihie Kim is the director of the Future Technologies Lab at KT. She received her B.S. and M.S. degrees in Computer Science and Statistics from Seoul National University, and a PhD degree in Computer Science from the University of Southern California. She has been working at USC Information Sciences Institute, leading many NSF (National Science Foundation) projects on social dialogue, pedagogical technologies, and intelligent interfaces. At USC, she initiated research on on-line discussion board and assessment of threaded discussions, leading to synergistic work among knowledge base experts, educational psychologists, NLP researchers, and educators. She developed a novel workflow portal that supports efficient assessment of online discussion activities. In order to develop a research community for improving collaborative learning and communication in education, she created two workshops on Intelligent Support for Learning in Groups. She is currently editing an IJAIED journal special issue on the topic. Dr. Kim was the general chair of the IUI (Intelligent User Interfaces) conference 2013 and the poster co-chair of the AI in Education conference 2013. She was the publicity chair for the AI in Education conference in 2007. She served as the workshop and tutorial chair of the IUI 2005 conference and as the publicity chair of the IUI Conference in 2003 and 2004. She has been the program committee member of AAAI, AIEd, EDM, IUI, WWW, K-CAP, SocialCom, Social Informatics, CADUI conferences, and refereed papers for various AI and user interfaces journals and conferences.

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Jaebong Yoo Samsung Electronics

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Jaebong Yoo is a senior research engineer at Samsung Electronics for mobile service planning. He received a Ph.D. from Hallym University and was as  a postdoctoral researcher at Information Sciences Institute of the University of Southern California. His current research focuses on understanding user experience and generate actionable insights for improving user satisfaction using artificial intelligence in the areas of education, science and business.

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Mediators of Participation in Online Discussion Blind SubmissionIntroductionOnline asynchronous discussion forums have become an essential medium for communication inhigher education, in part due to their integration into course management systems that are nowcentrally supported by many colleges and universities. The purpose of this study was tounderstand the mediators that both contribute to and inhibit student participation in a help-seeking course discussion forum, in a computer science course. Participation in coursediscussion forums is important to study because it may negate factors that appear to affectstudent retention rates: poor performance in class, loss of interest in the subject, and not feeling asense of inclusion in and identity with the department or program of study; factors thatparticularly affect women and minority students.PedagogyStudies of participation commonly feature statistical techniques that relate participationfrequency with performance, but these analyses ignore underlying reasons for participation whenit is a choice. To investigate mediators of participation, we developed a new survey instrumentcalled the Forum Participation Mediators Instrument (FPMI). The purpose of FPMI is to assistin discerning the underlying reasons for student participation, or lack of participation, in coursediscussion forums. The survey looks at the many factors that may contribute to or inhibit studentparticipation, examines student perception of satisfaction, and explores alternative methods ofhelp-seeking. Four scaled questions (Q1-Q4), with 8, 13, 4, and 10 subscales, respectively, andthree open questions (Q5,Q6) were decided upon. Likert-type scale response anchors were basedon Vagias (2006).MethodologyThe study took place in the context of an undergraduate computer science course at [auniversity]. The course used a question and answer discussion board with separate forums foreach project (4) and for theoretical/concept questions (1). Participation frequency of each studentwas linked to student FPMI response. Types of participation included initial postings (usually,but not exclusively questions), responses, and question views. The instrument was administeredto 173 students at the end of the fall semester in 2010. Forty-three students responded (25%response rate). A discussion of validity is included.Data AnalysisAn analysis of all mediators, satisfaction and help-seeking alternatives is reported on.Correlations were performed between mediators and help-seeking behaviors, and betweenparticipation and help-seeking behaviors.Scholarly SignificanceResults showed that mediators that influence participation were social, while those that inhibitparticipation most often were due to choosing alternative help-seeking venues, and sharinginformation among team members, even while satisfaction with the course forum was high. Theresults, which possibly extend to online knowledge sharing environments generally, suggest thatstudent participation depends on a variety of malleable factors.References (Sample)Auld, D., Blumberg, F.C., and Clayton, K. (2010). Linkages between motivation, self-efficacy, self-regulated learning and preferences for traditional learning environments or those with an online component. Digital Culture & Education, 2010.Bandura, A. (2001). Guide for Constructing Self-Efficacy Scales,, C.H., Basch, C.E., LeBlanc, M., McKnight, K.R. Lei, T. (2010). College students’ academic motivation: Differences by gender, class, and source of payment. College Quarterly, Winter 2010 - Volume 13 No 1.Conole, G., Dyke, M., Oliver, M. and Seale, J. (2004) ‘Mapping pedagogy and tools for effective learning design’, Computers & Education, vol. 43, nos. 1–2, pp. 17–33.Davies, J. and Graff, M. (2005). ‘Performance in e-learning: online participation and student grades’, British Journal of Educational Technology, vol. 36, no. 4, pp. 657–63.Elias, S.M. & Loomis, R.J. (2002). Using an academic self-efficacy scale to address university major persistence, Journal of College Student Development, Jul/Aug 2000.Taylor (2010) Constructivist On-Line Learning Environment Survey (COLLES) web site,, P. and Maor, D. (2000). Assessing the efficacy of online teaching with the Constructivist On-Line Learning Environment Survey. In A. Herrmann and M.M. Kulski (Eds), Flexible Futures in Tertiary Teaching. Proceedings of the 9th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, 2-4 February 2000. Perth: Curtin University of Technology.Vagias, Wade M. (2006). Likert-type scale response anchors. Clemson International Institute for Tourism & Research Development, Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management. Clemson University,

Shaw, E., & Kim, J., & Yoo, J. (2014, June), Mediators of Participation in Online Discussions Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--22829

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