Electronic discourse in preservice teacher preparation.
After a review of the literature on electronic discourse (ED), including research from teacher education and several other academic fields, the authors describe an investigation of the efficacy of integrating electronic discussion sites into an elementary language arts methods class. Findings from students' pre and postdiscussion dispositions and perceptions of the experience are presented. Instructor notes and analysis of online discussion contributions are used to provide context and illuminate findings. Findings are then discussed in view of the existing research on ED.
Jl. of Technology and Teacher Education (2003) 11(3), 377-395
Electronic discourse, or what others refer to as computer mediated communication, computer conferencing, or online education, has been a topic of interest in many academic areas for the last two decades (Harasim, 1990). Most recently, electronic discourse appears as a major component of "hybrid courses," a convergence of online and residential instruction predicted as the trend of the future by such influential educators as Graham Spanier, President of Penn State, and Chris Dede of Harvard University's Graduate School of Education (Young, 2002).
Research published in several academic fields outside of education has documented that electronic discourse (ED) can enhance the classroom environment and support student learning. More recently descriptive studies within the field of teacher education suggest that ED may have efficacy in upper level teacher education contexts. Characteristics common to these contexts include small class size, prior experience with classmates from previous semesters, concurrence of coursework with field experiences, and an emphasis on reflection about practice. The present study adds to this literature documenting ED in an upper level preservice methods course. Like the other recent studies of ED in teacher education, the present study was designed to be exploratory and descriptive.
After a review of the literature on ED, including research from several other academic fields as well as teacher education, the authors describe an investigation of the efficacy of integrating electronic discussion into an elementary language arts methods class. Findings from students' pre and postdiscussion dispositions and perceptions of the experience are presented. Instructor notes and analysis of online discussion contributions are used to provide context and illuminate findings. These findings are discussed in view of the existing research on ED.
When it comes to authentic integration of technology into their own instruction, many teacher educators fall short. A 1997 National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) report described the problem: "Preservice teachers are given instruction on computer literacy and shown software, but rarely are required to apply technology in their courses and are denied role models of faculty using technology in their own work." Four years later a technology brief from the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education documented that little had changed:
Our ultimate goal has not yet been achieved. It is not enough for professors to use technology in their offices, or even to use presentation software in their classrooms. We must design courses that require our students to use technology themselves--only then will they be prepared to incorporate technology into the lessons they will teach their own students. (Wetzel, 2001, p.5)
Electronic discourse has potential to help teacher educators to practice what they preach about technology integration. Used by students in methods classes and field experiences, ED also has potential to help students meet several of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) standards, especially those in the Productivity and Professional Practice category (ISTE, 2000).
In research and theory on ED in the broader field of higher education, there are several themes that may have implications for teacher education. Harasim (1990, 2000) provided a thorough overview of ED's unique potential for enabling peer interaction and collaboration formerly only available in face-to-face learning. She credited what she called "online education" with unprecedented opportunity for educational interactivity in a social learning environment. She provided a detailed description of five attributes that distinguish ED from existing modes of education: (a) "many-to-many communication; (b) place independence; (c) time independence; (d) text-based format; and (e) computer-mediated interaction" (1990, pp. 42-43).
Harasim (1990, 2000) characterized time independence as the attribute that allows a user to write a response immediately or to take time to reflect. A focus on the advantages of time independence emerges in the work of several other ED researchers and theorists as well, many of whom link it with student involvement because of its convenience. Aylward and MacKinnon (1999) pointed out that when students were part of an ED group, they had an opportunity to continue discussions begun in class, therefore reaping additional benefits of peer interaction. McComb (1993) and Creed (1997) also listed among the major advantages of ED the increased and enhanced student interaction outside of class. They noted that through ED, learners got to know each other, articulated ideas through writing, picked up new ideas through reading messages, and were stimulated by working with other learners.
There is also evidence that ED involves students who are reluctant participants in traditional classroom settings (Hammond, 1998). One reason for this may be that participants do not need to compete for "air time" in an asynchronous group-learning environment. Students can get into the discussion whenever they want and stay there for as long as they choose. Creed (1997) also discussed "leveling of the playing field" as a benefit for those who do not normally participate in class discussions. While they do not become the best debaters on the discussion sites, they seem to find it easier to express themselves online than face-to-face in public (Duffy, Arnold, & Henderson, 1995). These benefits may especially accrue to the females in the discussion. Arbaugh (2000) found that women capitalize on ED's potential to develop increased collaboration, thereby supporting increased learning and communication of the entire group.
Another theme in the ED literature is that it encourages reflection. Kuehn (1994) noted its potential to promote dynamic, thoughtful contributions when it is facilitated in a goal-specific manner. In a discussion of how ED promotes critical thinking, McComb (1993) suggested that when participants were limited to written discourse, their comments were more organized and articulate. Creed (1997) suggested that ED could promote reflection by creating an "incubation time." He required students to submit work to the ED site at least two hours before class. This advance work ensured that they engaged in the material twice, both when they wrote the contribution online and later when they talked about the idea in class.
The literature also reported the limitations of using electronic discourse, not only for the student, but also for the instructor. Limitations for students include the fact that participation in ED takes a lot of time and is not well suited for those with minimal technology skills or access to technology (Edens, 2000). Additionally, technological glitches can seriously affect the quality of the experience, as can reticence of the participants in a public forum and loss of visual and auditory cues in the ED environment. Limitations for instructors who use ED for the most part revolve around time management (Creed, 1997). Tending to the site is time intensive. The site needs to be regularly monitored to encourage interactivity and to guard against the use of "flaming" and unprofessional or inaccurate comments by participants (Hammond, 1998).
Actual research on ED in teacher education is recent and predominantly descriptive. Some studies have focused on ED's efficacy during field experiences. Others have examined the most common patterns of interactions, the role of the ED facilitators and the questions they ask, and the overall benefits and limitations of ED. Still others have looked at specific dimensions of ED's use on such factors as depth of discussion and sensitivity to moral dilemmas.
Edens (2000) described the use of a discussion site to strengthen communication, inquiry, and reflection among preservice students during a field experience. Overall, she characterized ED as a useful tool for helping students to function as a professional community and to reflect on authentic field-based issues. She noted problems as well. Some students were initially intimidated by the experience, while others were frustrated by technical glitches related to the incompatibility of some off-campus systems. She also expressed concern that students directed a disproportionate number of their comments to negative events in the field and made unsubstantiated statements without suggesting alternative ways that the situation could have been handled.
In other recent research about ED, King (2001) used case study methodology to examine how the use of asynchronous web-based bulletin boards in a graduate education course facilitated learning. Her findings provide insight about the patterns of communication that characterized students' web conferencing, as well as the perceived benefits and limitations of the medium for the learners. In her discussion of the findings, King noted a major influence of online conferences in two areas: (a) student relationships and (b) face-to-face classroom interaction. Students were more interactive about extracurricular topics like family news and professional opportunities, became more familiar with each other and developed a stronger sense of community. She noted change in the group dynamics of academic discussion as well, with the shifts to more egalitarian participation online transferring to face-to-face interactions in the classroom.
In a subsequent study, King (2002) also used case study design to explore the viability and dimensions of a hybrid model of a teacher education course in which students attended six face-to-face classes and participated asynchronously in discussion eight times over a five-week period. Her data lent support to earlier studies' findings about the importance of the instructor's careful choice of types of online questions and tasks and ongoing facilitation of the flow and content of discussion. She also confirmed many of the opportunities and problems that others have observed in ED. She concluded that if important conditions like content richness, flexibility, and personalization are present, the hybrid class has strong potential for exploration of knowledge and practice and for the development of learning communities.
Jarvela and Hakkinen (2002) used quantitative and qualitative methods to study asynchronous interaction in web-based conferencing among preservice teachers, focusing on whether the students were able to reach in reciprocal interaction and thus create educationally relevant high-level web-based discussion. Their results supported the hypothesis that this higher-level perspective was related to higher-level discussion. In a related study, Makitalo, Hakkinen, Leinonen and Jarvela (2002) explored how preservice participants established and maintained common ground to reach deeper level interaction in case-based web discussion. The results suggested that to establish common ground, it was essential that the participants not only showed evidence of their understandings through written feedback, but also provided support to their peers in their replies. Another component essential to maintaining common ground was presenting questions. This behavior signaled the willingness of participants to remain in the discussion.
Harrington (2002) examined transcripts of web-based discussions in one of the first courses prospective teachers take in their education sequence, looking for evidence about their sensitivity to moral dilemmas. She focused on two questions: (a) whether or not conferencing activities help prospective teachers develop an awareness of different lines of action and (b) whether or not, in conference with their peers, they become aware of how these different lines of action affect others. Her findings lead her to a qualified "yes" to both questions. She concluded that such technology applications may be designed to both foster development and provide insight about how that development occurs.
Slavit (2002) used surveys, interviews, monitoring of chat activity, and examination of archived chat activity to describe and gain insight into the effects of extending classroom discussion in a preservice elementary education math methods course. Slavit concluded that students generally perceived ED positively and that ED promoted reflection on the teaching of mathematics and increased the profile of students who were not strong contributors in the face-to-face classroom.
Thus, the review of the ED literature suggested themes of potential benefits and limitations when it is integrated in a classroom or field experience setting. The researchers looked for these themes in implementing and evaluating the current study of ED in an elementary education methods course.
PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
The purpose of this pre/post evaluation study was to explore preservice students' prior experience, perceptions and expectations for participation in an electronic discussion forum and then, at the end of the participation, to learn to what extent these perceptions had changed. To the extent that the context of our study matches theirs, other teacher educators may gain insight about how they might use ED in methods courses.
Context and Subjects
The site for the research was a large midwestern university, which graduates approximately 170 elementary education students per year. Students progressed through a three-semester blocked course sequence, each with a concurrent field experience. The sequence culminates in a fourth semester of full time student teaching. National Educational Technology Standards (2000) are met by integrating technology into the methods courses and field experiences. A faculty technology leadership team, in partnership with teachers from a local Professional Development School, has developed sequencing for that curriculum integration. Much of this work over the past decade has been supported by state and federal grants that promote technology integration into teacher education.
The researchers both teach a Language Arts methods course in Block 2 of the elementary sequence. It was from these classes that data were gathered about participation in an electronic discussion group. In Block 2 students take Reading, Language Arts, and Science methods as well as a 39-hour field experience. While discussion group surveys have been administered to 225 students in five sections of the language arts class over a five-semester period, the present study focuses on one group rather than on an aggregate of all data because the experience varied greatly across sections on subject characteristics as well as the curriculum and teaching styles of the instructor. Additionally, the ED experience during two semesters was compromised by extended server shutdowns in response to computer viruses. Thus the sample used in this study was an intact group of 24 preservice elementary education majors in the second block of their teacher education program. From the total class of 24 students, there were 21 usable sets of "paired" pre and post surveys. Two students were eliminated because they had had prior experience with ED. One was eliminated because she became ill and took an incomplete in the course. The class met from 10:00 until 11:15 a.m. each Tuesday and Thursday over the course of a 15-week semester.
To collect information and to understand how the preservice teachers perceived the ED experience, quantitative and qualitative methods were used. Because of the small sample size and the nonrandom selection of subjects, inferential statistics were not applied.
The prediscussion survey. The presurvey was constructed based on issues raised in the literature on ED and in the instructors' own observations about what factors hinder and enable participation in ED. It included a yes/no item to determine whether or not students had previously participated in an online discussion group as a class requirement and, if so, how they would describe that experience. Students were then asked to rate that prior experience or their expectations for an ED experience using four-point Likert scale items with space for open-ended response about their expectations. Additional open-ended questions elicited concerns or limitations that might prevent a successful ED experience and benefits that students would expect from the experience.
The postdiscussion survey. The postsurvey was a follow-up version of the presurvey. It included the Likert item that asked students to rate the experience on a scale of 1-4. It also included three open-ended questions: one about benefits, one about aspects of the experience that were less than satisfactory, and one about recommendations that students would make for the way instructors should structure future online discussions.
Instructor notes and analysis of online discussion contributions. The instructor made notes of inclass discussion during the ED unit and analyzed transcripts of the students' online contributions for patterns of participation and types of interactions. These data sources were used to provide additional insight into student survey responses.
The first survey was administered the week prior to the posting of the first question on the ED site. The post survey was given to students the day after the last due date for postings. The content of the ED site was designed to support a unit on language variation in a Language Arts methods class. Topics in the language variation unit included the following: (a) self-awareness of one's own dialect and its features, (b) the features and regularity of unfamiliar dialects, (c) social and economic issues related to standard/non-standard English, and (d) strategies to promote standard written and spoken English in the elementary classroom.
Prompts were put on the web site over a three-week period, beginning a week before dialect content was directly addressed during regular class time. Deadlines for contributions were established on the course calendar at least a week in advance. New questions were posted on the due date for the prior question, allowing approximately three to five days for responses. The instructor monitored the site, responding to individuals when she wanted to highlight a point and encouraging interaction. Credit for ED participation was integrated into the course requirements. Criteria were simply that the required number of posts be completed on time, and that the comments be "substantive." The instructor did quality control on "substance" by privately e-mailing students whose comments did not meet the criteria and inviting them to enter another comment.
The kinds of questions asked were intended to be controversial and exploratory, encouraging students to explore an issue from multiple perspectives, to share experiences or background knowledge. The primary goal was to include questions about issues on which students' opinions were predicted to change during the unit. The ED site then could become a record of their growth in understanding the topic.
In the hour before regular class meetings, the instructor monitored the site and looked for themes that she could incorporate into classroom discussion. On some occasions, she used an LCD projector to display the site and discuss these themes. Thus, class discussion became an extension of the ED dialogue.
From the Prediscussion Survey
Prior experience. Of the 23 students, only two had ever participated in an online discussion group as a requirement for a class, one in an English class and one in a history class. One student characterized the history experience as a 3 (positive). The other rated the English experience as a 4 (very positive). These students were not asked the next question about expectations.
Expectations. When the remaining 21 students were asked about their expectations for being a part of a required online discussion group, 14 characterized themselves as a 3 (positive). Two placed themselves at 4, (very positive), and one rated him/herself as 2, (negative). Though a dichotomous 4-point scale was used, four students drew in a mark between 3 (positive) and 2 (negative), essentially forming a neutral category for themselves.
The open-ended item concerning expectations revealed some differences within the group. Among those who were most positive was a student new to the cohort, who implied that her comfort level might be higher online than in class: "It will give everyone a chance to contribute, especially those who are quiet." Among those with the lowest expectations were the non-traditional students, older students with long commutes and multiple adult responsibilities.
Concerns/limitations. When students were asked about their concerns or what might prevent their success with ED, access was the highest frequency answer. Table 2 shows concerns in rank order. Six students expressed concerns with computer access and whether their home systems could handle the tasks required. Unreliable technology was the second major concern. Five students expressed concerns that the Internet service or the server might be down and they might therefore be unable to complete assignments in a timely manner. Not having enough time was a concern expressed by four. This seems to be a general reference to the heavy workload of students in the Block 2 classes. Computer skills were a concern of three. One said simply, "I'm not very computer literate." Another was optimistic, "I wouldn't know how to participate in an online discussion but I'm sure I'll find out before I start." Perceptions about competence were a concern of two students who said that they worried that "People will think I am stupid." One worried that her spelling errors would cause that impression; the other indicated that she thought her comments came across better face-to-face. Two noted limitations of electronic discourse: "In person discussion is better." These students indicated that they thought that traditional classroom discussion was easier or more effective.
BENEFITS YOU EXPECT FROM THE EXPERIENCE
Anticipated benefits. Table 3 shows the benefits students anticipated in rank order. When students were asked to describe any benefits they thought might come from being part of an ED experience, discussion with peers was the benefit most frequently expressed. Fifteen anticipated that this benefit would be over and above what they gained from inclass discussion. One looked forward to the opportunity "to gain insight from classmates," while another said, "I expect to see a more cohesive group in the class as a result of our online sharing." Another said simply that she looked forward to "different views from different people."
Seven students anticipated general improvement in computer skills as a benefit. An additional three noted that the experience would specifically prepare them for future participation in online discussion. One student looked forward to a benefit for less verbal in class. This student, who rarely participated during inclass discussion, looked forward to being able "to communicate ideas on my own time--I will be able to think about a question before I respond."
The Postdiscussion Survey
Descriptive data lends some insight about this particular group and their perception of the experience. By the end of the discussion group experience, students all characterized the experience as positive or very positive. The mean was 3.33 for the postsurvey. While this study's small sample size and nonrandom sampling make the application of inferential statistics inappropriate, it may be of descriptive interest to compare the postsurvey mean to the presurvey mean of 2.95. Students' justifications for their postsurvey rankings fell predominantly into two categories and are illustrated in Table 4. Students sensed that they had better understanding/carryover of the topic being covered in class. They also noted benefits of connecting with peers in a new way. Minor themes included their appreciation for "evenness" of participation in ED and for the "honesty" of responses they might not have been comfortable sharing in class.
Difficulties. Table 5 shows the aspects students found difficult/unsatisfactory in rank order. Tied in this category were housekeeping problems and internet access, with seven students characterizing each as a problem. Concerns about "housekeeping" reflected the messy condition of the ED site, especially after several questions had been posed. One student explained, "I found the format of the site hard to follow. At first it was hard to determine where the question was. I had a hard time distinguishing responses from replies to the responses." Internet access was especially problematic for students who needed to get on to the site from home. Many of them had older hardware systems that did not support the software used for the discussion site. Theoretically, these students should have had ample access to computers while they were on campus. The college of Education maintains two state-of-the art computer labs. Additionally, as students in the elementary education block, they also had access to a mini-lab in the back of their science methods classroom. However, classes were often scheduled in the college's computer labs at the times these students had breaks and, within the mini-lab, there was competition for a small number of computers. Actual time on campus also limited access: commuting students frequently schedule classes back-to-back 3 days a week so that they do not need to drive a long distance to campus every day.
Four noted no problems at all. These students were campus-based and possessed confidence and competence in technology skills at the start of the ED process. A student in this category noted that "the questions were understandable and the discussion page was easy to access." Two felt that limited time had prevented them from making as much of a contribution to the site as they would have liked. Specifically, they noted that when the instructor put new questions online without a weekend in between for response, they sometimes could not get enough time online to make a substantive response. One student felt constrained by discussing a sensitive topic online. She noted that it was "difficult to express myself and not offend someone." There was also one student who felt that the lack of interaction on the site was less than satisfactory. She noted that she would have "enjoyed it more if someone would have responded to my comments."
Recommendations. Table 6 shows students' recommendations in rank order. The largest number of students had no suggestions. "I felt that everything went very well" was a typical comment among these seven students. Six students recommended that the instructor highlight the questions better. Midway in the process the instructor had responded to the organizational problems on the site by numbering new questions and putting them in bold format. Students noted that this change improved site organization: "It was confusing at the beginning because some students started new links and I was not sure exactly where your questions were located. When you started adding '[4.sup.th] Question DUE 9/23' it was much easier to follow."
Four students recommended that the instructor make the site more interactive between students. This comment illustrates the problem: "I think that at the very beginning you might want to tell your students that they are welcome to respond to other students' responses. I had never done a web discussion before and I did not know we could respond to others' comments until I saw other students doing this." Midway in the process, the instructor had noticed this lack of student-to-student response and added a peer-to-peer requirement. This intervention helped, as this student notes: "I think you should have days between each new question where students were required to respond to at least three people, similar to what we did after the first question. I thought it got everyone more involved and encouraged more students to read the contributions." A related recommendation made by two students was that the instructor should allow sufficient time between questions to allow student-to-student connections to occur. Three students noted that an initial orientation would have helped. While such an orientation had been planned, a server crash led the instructor to resort to talking about the site rather than showing it when she gave the first assignment. An offline introduction was not adequate, as this student noted: "The whole class needs to learn the format and how to do this at once."
Instructor Notes and Analysis
As part of assessment for the Language Arts course, the instructor routinely keeps records of students' contributions to small and large group discussion. She does this with a check-off system on the class roster as well as anecdotal records on four or five students during each class session. Over the course of the ED experience, the instructor made notes of themes that she observed on the ED site and during inclass discussion of the ED experience. She used the "search" feature within the ED site to locate contributions made by each student in the class. She also printed hard copy of the entire ED discourse. The latter was essentially a transcript of the students' contributions that could be examined for patterns of participation and types of interactions. Using these data sources, the instructor identified benefits and challenges of the ED experience.
Benefits. As the review of the literature suggested, adding an ED component to the dialect unit was associated with increased student involvement. The instructor's records of normal inclass participation on a given day showed a pattern of 50-70% of students contributing to full group discussion. These records also revealed a small but consistent group of two to five students who never, or almost never, contributed to full group discussion, even though this participation was a requirement for the course. In the ED forum students were also required to participate, but they did so much more consistently. All but one student, who was ill during the unit and subsequently dropped the course, made substantive contributions to each of the questions posed on the ED site. While this difference may be attributable to the differing methods of participation requirements in the two forums, the ED forum seems well suited to encouraging some consistency in participation, even among students who were reluctant to speak up in the traditional classroom discussion. Additional benefits included the opportunity to get students involved in exploring a topic well before it was covered in class and the fact that much discussion occurred outside of class time, saving some class time for other activities.
Challenges. The greatest challenge, especially during the first round of discussion, was in navigating what quickly became a very messy site as ED-in-experienced students added their entries. Some students forgot to put their names on entries and, because only the instructor could make changes to posted entries, they could not remedy the problem. Other students added to the confusion by inadvertently posting some entries above or below where they had intended, embedding them in parts of the discussion where they seemed out of context.
Perhaps more remarkable about the challenges was the absence of some of the problems that the review of the literature would lead one to expect from an "open" site. In particular, there was concern that the discussion of dialect could get insulting or inappropriate. But despite the fact that there was no password required for posting entries on this site, these problems did not occur.
The review of the literature on ED suggested several positive themes for ED implementation. These included ED's potential for increased student involvement and community building and for the promotion of reflection. The evaluation of this ED experience for a class of elementary education students suggested that many of the benefits identified in the literature were also evident for this group. While students were participating in ED, the level of student involvement increased, both for the class as a whole and for the individuals who were not regular participants during inclass discussion. Comments from the postdiscussion survey also suggested that the theme of community building held true for this group. They reported a better understanding of peers and their perspectives. Several of the recent studies of ED in teacher education contexts suggest that it can promote deeper thinking and awareness of moral dilemmas. While this study did not systematically analyze the archived transcript of the discussion, the instructor noted an increasingly higher frequency of reflective and substantiated comments with each round of the dialect discussion.
ED literature also suggested that certain aspects of its implementation may be problematic for instructors and students. For students, it may be time consuming and technologically challenging for those with minimal computer skills or access. Technology glitches may affect the quality of the experience, as may participants' reticence in a public forum. For the students in this study, problems related to internet access and technology glitches were a problem for about a third of the group, mostly those who were accessing the site from home. These students began the experience with lower expectations for the ED experience and more concerns about what the barriers might be, and it is likely that their access problems made the process more time consuming and less reliable than it was for on campus students. The fact that these problems were not resolved may well have affected their postassessment of satisfaction with the ED experience.
The fact that a third of the class noted "housekeeping" as a problem lends support to the observation of other researchers that it is important to monitor and fix "technology glitches" as they occur. In this case the problem was easily remedied by making the instructor's questions and due dates more distinguishable from the student's comments, but until this happened the "messy site" was frustrating to students.
Reticence was an issue for only one student, perhaps because the majority of these students had known each other from a previous semester. Only two students expressed concern about the assignment being time consuming, perhaps because during the ED experience, they were not required to do another reflective writing assignment that is routinely required with each new topic.
The ED literature also identified issues that may be problematic for the instructor. The amount of time spent tending and monitoring the site may be too time consuming, as the instructor needs to visit the site frequently to encourage interactivity and guard against "flaming," unprofessional or inaccurate comments. In this study, there were no incidents of unprofessional or insulting comments on site, despite the fact that it was not password protected. This may be related to both the small class size and the fact that the instructor did spend substantial amounts of time on the ED site, averaging about two hours a week across the three-week dialect unit. However, this time commitment was somewhat offset by the fact that she did not need to spend time reading and responding to students' reflective logs during this period.
The findings of this descriptive, exploratory study of the efficacy of ED in one upper level language arts methods class cannot be appropriately generalized to any other context. However, teacher educators may see similarities between their own situations and context described in this study and decide that some of its findings have implications for them.
In this preservice context, the benefits of the use of electronic discussion to supplement traditional classroom discussion were sufficient to encourage further use and experimentation. Further research in other preservice contexts is needed to evaluate the effectiveness of ED to extend the dialogue of methods classes and to promote shared reflection during field experiences.
Table 1 Expectations of Being Part of a Required Online Discussion Group Ranking n % Typical comment Very Positive 2 9 I expect to talk about great ideas and have open discussion Positive 14 67 Interesting to talk to many people on a topic Get different viewpoints Neutral 4 19 I'm nervous, don't know what to expect Negative 1 5 What's the purpose? What would we discuss that we can't in class? Note: X = 2.95 SD = .44 n = 21 students with no prior ED experience Table 2 Concerns in Rank Order Number Expressing Concern Concern 6 Computer access 5 Unreliable technology 4 Not having enough time 3 Computer skills 2 "People will think I am stupid." 2 "In person is better." Note: Participants could list more than one concern. Some listed no concerns. Numbers above are a summation of their comments. Table 3 Benefits Students Anticipated in Rank Order Number Expressing Benefit Benefit 15 Increased discussion with peers 7 General improvement with computer skills 3 Experience with online discussions 1 Empowers less verbal in class Note: Participants could list more than one benefit. Numbers above are a summation of their comments. Table 4 How Would You Characterize Your Impression of This Online Discussion Group Experience? Ranking n % Typical Comment Very Positive 7 33 I have learned much about my peers through the discussion, especially since we are all from different regions in the state. Our different dialects helped us to ascertain the differences in dialect, slang and jargon. Simple to do and I loved reading the comments others made. Positive 14 67 I feel that when participating in these, you better understand your peers. You feel closer to them because they share personal information to better explain their opinion. I enjoyed being able to respond to people's statements about the questions. I also enjoyed talking in class about the online questions and responses. I think this lets people say things they may not express in a classroom atmosphere. It gets more honest responses. <I liked> the ability to respond to other people's comments at any time. Negative or Very Negative 0 00 Note: X = 3.33 SD = .49n = 21 students with no prior ED experience Table 5 Aspects Students Found Difficult/Unsatisfactory in Rank Order Number Expressing Problem Aspect 7 Internet access problems 7 Housekeeping problems 2 Limited time 1 Fear of offending 1 Lack of response 4 No problems at all Note: Participants could list more than one difficulty. Numbers above are a summation of their comments. Table 6 Students' Recommendations in Rank Order Number Expressing Recommendation Recommendation 7 NO suggestions, "just fine" 6 Highlight the questions better 4 Make the site more interactive between students 2 Provide sufficient time between questions 1 Facilitate an initial orientation Note: Participants could list more than one recommendation. Numbers above are a summation of their comments.
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RELATED ARTICLE: Question Example:
Identify what you consider to be your hometown and classify yourself according to the dialect map on the "Self-analysis of Dialect" handout. Describe anything that you think is distinct about your region's dialect. Classmates are invited to agree/disagree with you based on what they have observed about speakers from your region.
JOYCE KILLIAN AND GARY L. WILLHITE
Southern Illinois University Carbondale