Asynchronous discussion boards: To assess or not, that is the question Type of presentation: Spotlight on Practice
Douglas, T and Mather, CA and Murray, SL and Earwaker, LA and James, AJ and Pittaway, JK and Robards, BJ and Salter, S, Asynchronous discussion boards: To assess or not, that is the question Type of presentation: Spotlight on Practice, Teaching Matters conference, University of Tasmania, 2 December 2015, Hobart, Tasmania (2015) [Conference Extract]
Discussion boards are commonly used as an online communication tool to foster communication between students and, students and staff outside of formal teaching activities and may be assessed as an integral component of blended learning and teaching. A pilot study was undertaken in 2013-14 of first and third year students enrolled in health science and sociology units which utilised asynchronous online discussion boards. The student perspectives of the value of discussion posts in their units were surveyed using an anonymous online questionnaire. No differences between first year and third year students were identified in the survey responses and similarities were found between the different disciplines. Students perceived their level of engagement in discussion boards was influenced by a number of factors, particularly assessment. This study found that assessing student discussions did motivate participation, however, this approach was not always valued by students who may engage in the discussions simply to fulfil the assessment requirements, rather than value add to their learning. Participants in units with assessed discussions were critical of their educational value, particularly when discussions boards were not facilitated effectively or other students did not engage. Students in units where discussion posts were not assessed did not feel as engaged using this online communication tool, but understood its value as a means of formative feedback. Effective facilitation, clear purpose and group participation were therefore perceived to be important factors to engage students in online discussion boards, as supported by previous studies investigating perceptions of discussion boards in a single discipline. Students also indicated that discussion boards provided a pedagogical platform in which peer engagement and information sharing could occur. Students surveyed strongly indicated that discussion boards must be fit-for-purpose and integrated into the curriculum to enhance online learning experiences as part of a blended model.