Engaging students for learning with online discussions

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    1. Introduction

    As theWeb becomes a pervasimany associate degree nursingbased courses or Web-enhanced

    often want individual feedback on discussion postings fromhumor expressions with online learning (Stodel, Thompson,& MacDonald, 2006), this approach is accepted and rapidlyincreasing. An initial benefit of online discussion accordingto Prestera and Moller (2001) is that students have more timeto consider their thoughts. Collins and Berge (2006) reportedother advantages of online conferencing such as convenience,

    1 The article was previously presented at the Conference on AppliedLearning in Higher Education, St. Joseph, MO (roundtable presentation,February 2008).

    Corresponding author. Tel.: +1 913 526 9527.E-mail address: sroehm@kumc.edu

    e Degree Nursing. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

    Teaching and Learning in Nursing (2009) 4, 691557-3087/$ see front matter 2009 National Organization for Associatcontact in the online classroom makes it necessary to havevery clear guidelines and clearly stated student expectationsfor participation in online discussions. Because students

    2. Purposes and benefits of online discussion

    Although students sometimes note missing face-to-faceinteractions such as nonverbal communication and directimmediacy and verbal and nonverbal prompts, the context forfaculty and student discussions and questioning is changed.

    Challenges accompanying online discussions as opposedto classroom discussions can be quite different. Traditionalclassroom instructors are able to steer discussions based onverbal and nonverbal student cues. The lack of personal

    nursing education, discussion and Internet, facilitatingonline learning, and facilitating online discussions. Eighteenarticles meeting review criteria were critiqued. Articles wereprimarily a blend of descriptive evaluations and case reports.doi:10.1016/j.teln.2008.07.003ve tool in nursing education,programs are using Web-classroom learning oppor-nline discussions can beopportunities and promot-

    n critical thinking about aonline, missing classroom

    faculty participation or monitoring guides. Knowing goalsfor utilizing online discussions is another issue so thatdiscussions do not just become busywork for the students.

    What are the best practices in leading online discussions?The purpose of this project was to review the literature toidentify the best practice for facilitating online discussions.The method included review of five databases (Ovid-Medline, Ovid-Cinahl, Ovid-RMC Journals, Google Scho-lar, and ERIC) using terms including online discussion,tunities for selected content. Oimportant in extending classrooming student interaction and evetopic. When discussions moveinstructors, this may become cumbersome without clearEngaging students for learnin

    Stephanie Roehm BSN, RN, Wanda Bonn

    University of Kansas School of Nursing, Kansas City, KS 66

    Abstract Online discussionsstudents and promoting studenopposed to classroom discussiocurrent best practices in leadinclarifying the purpose of particlarifying faculty roles. 2009 National Organizationreserved.

    KEYWORDS:Online discussion;Web-enhanced learning;Web-enhanced teaching

    KEYWORDS:Online discussion;Web-enhanced learning;Web-enhanced teachingPhD, RN

    , USA

    e important in extending classroom learning opportunities forraction about a topic. Challenges of leading online discussions ase very different. This article presents a literature review describingline discussions. Sample implications for nurse educators includediscussions, providing clear student discussion expectations, and

    Associate Degree Nursing. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rightswith online discussions1


  • socialization in course design. Woods and Baker (2004)

    and interaction in online learning are also discussed (Woods

    student as discussion leader and facilitator. Student reflection,

    7Engaging students for learning with online discussionsdescribed interaction and immediacy as being intertwinedand emphasized the need for learning to take place in a socialcontext. Allan (2004) also reported that social interactionsare important to online learners. Prestera and Moller (2001)stated the importance of student interaction to studentlearning. Stodel et al. (2006) stated that students' feelingsof community are dependent on social relationships withpeers and professors.

    In traditional classrooms, Daroszewski, Kinswer, andLloyd (2004) suggested a two-tiered discussion format thatcombined online discussion with traditional classroom work.The purpose is to enhance active learning, encourage furtherdiscussions, increase comprehension of abstract concepts,and encourage critical thinking and social interactions. Usingtiered discussions may encourage students to continuereflection on work done in class, promoting academic andprofessional growth (Daroszewski et al., 2004).

    3. Frameworks for online learningand discussion

    Various frameworks for online learning and discussionexist. White (2004) discussed four frameworks for onlinefacilitation which include the following: understand theconcept of facilitation (online and in person), participate inplanning and building discussions, be involved in thegroup's discussion purpose, and have selected discussiontools and processes available. Moore's transactional distancetheory describes three types of interaction which are possiblein online discussions including learnercontent interaction,learnerinstructor interaction, and learnerlearner interac-tion (Woods & Baker, 2004).

    In addition, the seven principles for good educationalpractice in online learning (Chickering & Ehrmann, 1996)have relevance to facilitating online discussion. The sevenprinciples for good practice include providing multipleuse of guest experts, and interaction for students who aredistant from one another.

    Buckley, Beyna, and Brown (2005) echoed the benefits ofonline discussion, noting that a well-planned online discus-sion helps faculty members meet class objectives and engagestudents for collaborative learning. These authors alsodiscussed that online discussions are advantageous forquieter students and that they promote active learning.Hermann (2006) reported the encouragement and support ofcollaborative learning, active learning, higher order thinking,enhancement of writing skills, and socialization amongprofessionals as advantages to online learning. In addition,students who used online discussion for clinical postconfer-ence had deeper discussions, especially related to personalreflections and awareness (Hermann, 2006).

    Also related to online discussions, numerous studiesreported student social interaction as a key to studentsuccess. Bullen (1998) stressed the importance of includingwhich is important in discussion postings, is also reported asbeing a key to student development (Hermann, 2006).

    Students' learning styles likely influence students'preferences to various discussion approaches. A learningstyle inventory of online learner's results reported a highnumber of kinesthetic learners (Fearing & Riley, 2005).

    5. Faculty roles in discussion

    Heuer and King (2004) described faculty roles in onlinediscussion as multidimensional and similar to the complex-ities of leading a band. They outlined five overall expecta-tions of an online instructor as planner, model, coach,facilitator, and communicator. In this model, the coach showsencouragement and development of the team. The facilitatordemonstrates an understanding of reciprocal learningbetween the instructor and students, use of open-ended& Baker, 2004). Verbal immediacy is discussed with specificexamples including using questions, using humor, addres-sing students by name, sharing personal examples, andinitiating discussion. The constructivist framework is used inthe intertwining of interaction and immediacy (Woods &Baker, 2004).

    4. Student roles in discussions

    Bonnel (2008) noted that students have important roles inpromoting their own active learning in the online classroom.Although research is limited, recommended strategies forengaging students in online discussions exist. Assigningvarying discussion roles to students has been recommendedby some. Persell (2002) recommended discussions that werestructured by providing students with one of three rotatingroles each week, starters, responders, and integrators. Startersdiscussed what they learned from the reading and raisedquestions from the material. Responders responded to thosequestions and posted new questions. Integrators combinedand analyzed the readings and added additional questions.This study suggests that student interaction increased by theend of the semester. Although an interesting concept,instructor workload for this project was reported to be high.Stodel et al. (2006) also discussed the benefits of having ainteraction opportunities, giving timely feedback, designingcourses that emphasize higher level thinking activities,focusing on active learning tasks with student timecommitments, clearly defining high student expectations,and respecting diverse learners. Providing students withimportant course or assignment orientation information isadditionally noted. Halstead (2005) reported that bothstudent and faculty expectations for interaction play a keyfactor in online learning.

    Theoretical frameworks specifically related to immediacy

  • conflict, and providing clear instructions and technical

    (2004) to increase interaction included group projects,discussion as large component of grades, ongoing discussionabout complex issues, and varying levels of instructorinteraction throughout the course. Mandatory online intro-ductory classes (noncredit) may be helpful for stude