Title: Broadening the Notion of Participation in Online Discussions: Examining Patterns in Learners’ Online Listening Behaviors (2013)
Authors: Alyssa Friend Wise, Jennifer Speer, Farshid Marbouti, & Ying-Ting Hsiao
Source: Instructional Science
Research Question: It is easy to observe online "speaking" via participation in discussion forums, but how do we measure the online "listening" behaviors of students?
Study Design: Online courses often rely on discussion forums to engage students and inspire them to think critically about course material. Instructors may also examine the number and quality of forum posts to determine grading decisions for student participation, but online discussions have many drawbacks including low student involvement, many single thread comments that do not engage other students, and asynchronous participation that makes engagement challenging. The literature examined by the authors of Broadening the Notion of Participation in Online Discussions: Examining Patterns in Learners’ Online Listening Behaviors conducted a literature review which demonstrated that students in online discussions seldom interacted with their peers’ posts beyond a single reply and longer discussions in these forums were rare. Most research in this area examines student participation based on frequency of posting, but students also read forum posts and this "listening" activity may be a more important indicator of engagement.
The authors endeavored to examine the online listening behaviors of individual students in order to conceptualize types of online listeners and better understand the interactions that take place in an online course. They examined click stream data from the online component of a blended business course at an undergraduate university in Canada. This data was associated with individual users and the authors examined student behavior through cluster analysis.
Findings: The authors found that 73% of student sessions focused on listening behaviors; students read the forum, but did not post, edit their own posts, or complete assignments or tests. The authors found three behavioral clusters in the data. 31% of students were classified as superficial listeners, intermittent talkers, reading other students’ posts quickly but incompletely and creating their own posts in line with the average. 49% of students were concentrated listeners, integrated talkers, posting an average amount, but taking more time to read posts. 20% of students were broad listeners, re?ective talkers spending the most time reading nearly all of the other students’ posts and commenting more often and more broadly than other groups.
Moving Forward: While the authors found that listening behaviors were important, they found no significant course performance differences between the second and third clusters, suggesting that it is not necessary to read all classroom posts as long as students take time to engage with content. They also found that it was easy to differentiate types of student participants simply by analyzing the length and frequency of sessions. This information could be used to give automatic feedback to students and identify disengagement early in online courses.Image: listening_solo by Nicola Einarson via Flickr