Quality of Asynchronous Discussions: A Case Study of Professor Impact
Erica J. King, Erica J. Tanner
Although research suggests synchronous discussions are often favored by students (Skylar, 2009; Barker & Pittman, 2012), complexity in personal schedules makes it difficult to include synchronous communications consistently in distance learning programs. Asynchronous discussions are an obvious alternative, but this approach often suffers from limited student participation (Hewitt, 2005; Wan & Johnson, 1994; Guzdial, 1997). On the one hand, the sharing and exchanging of ideas is necessary for the construction of knowledge (Dunlap, 2005). Online discussions were identified by Richardson and Swan (2003) as one of the activities students found most beneficial to their learning. Ertmer and colleagues (2007) also found that students viewed discussions in distance education as integral to learning. On the other hand, instructional activities must hold value for students. If instructors do not value discussion enough to participate, then students begin to see the activity as superfluous. While instructor-facilitation of distance discussions has been shown to have a potentially negative influence on student participation (Mazzolini & Maddison, 2003), research related to specific instructor behavior and the impact that behavior has on student engagement and the quality of discussion posts is limited. The purpose of the current research is to shed light on how deliberate facilitation approaches implemented by the instructor might motivate students to increase the depth of their engagement in asynchronous discussion.

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