Showing posts with label forums. Show all posts
Showing posts with label forums. Show all posts

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Bonding in Online Communities

Group attachment is an important aspect of retaining and maintaining customers. As groups begin to identify and interact with new members, they build additional identities with the service or product. Research by Yuquing Ren, et. al (2012), focuses on communication and the understanding of identity, bond, and community identity in online forums. Their study helps highlight how different types of attachment strengthen online interaction and customer retention. 

The far majority of business that seeks to build online communities fail to attract a critical mass of customers even when over a million dollars have been spent (Worthen, 2008).  The primary problem is that they have not been able to create and develop a level of attachment among members. Customers simply come and disappear after a few posts. 

Understanding that there is identity attachment, bond attachment and community attachment can help in fostering the right type of activities that create positive identity with the service. People must feel connected to other members of the group if they are to return to the site on a regular basis. 

Identity attachment can be seen as attachment to members who are similar in appearance or other difference that separates them. It is a primarily visual and surface type identity. Bond based attachments are focused more on connection to group members and seeing similarity in belief, interests or values. Group based attachment is focused on connecting to an entire community of online users. 

The researchers found that identity based attachment is much easier to foster in online communities. One generally must provide an identity, familiarity around products, and in and out-group type dynamics to encourage retention (i.e. you’re different because you use our service). Bond based and community based attachment requires the ability to have personal communications. This is much more akin to social networking than it is other types of online communities. 

Online communities act in the same manner as real life communities. Communication is the key component that allows people to feel connected to others and form an identify around particular aspects of interest. In the online world identity groups and community groups are easier to establish based upon the specific and genera interest in products or identity. Social bonding is more difficult and takes considerable amount of time and energy. It is difficult to determine precisely when and how long bond identity can be formed. However, the use of profiles and communication around topics can encourage this knowledge of other members.

Worthen, B. (July 16,2008). Why most online communities fail. Wall Street Journal.

Yuqing Ren, et. al. (2012). Building member attachment in online communities: applying theories of group identity and interpersonal bonds. MIS Quarterly, 36 (3).

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Improving Student Learning Through Interactive Forums

Discussion forums are not being consistently used to effectively contribute to learning. Part of the problem lay with students while other parts of the problem lay with professors but it is the forum itself that can adjust and make a difference in the connectivity of the elements and an improvement in the overall learning process. Developing strong forums is part of the learning battle and when done well can impact the quality of learning throughout a university. 

According to Rose and Smith (2007) there are a few best practices with online forums which include giving clear instructions, useful feedback, improve motivation, set appropriate expectations, organizing the forums, social presence, determine questions to be asked. Such forums should not be seen from a static and singular perspective. They are living, breathing, and moving entities that require an environmental approach from different angles. 

Salmon’s five stage model is a solid reflection tool that helps to lower things that inhibit student learning. The model provides a framework for student learning by drawing students into higher levels of motivation. The different categories can be seen as follows (Salmon, 2004):

Access and Motivation: Students should be motivated to engage in the learning process and will need access to the discussions. 

Online Socialization: Online socialization offers an opportunity engage with fellow classmates. 

Information Exchange: Forums should provide the ability to share and transfer information. 

Knowledge Construction: Through this information students begin to develop constructs and knowledge. 

Development: Students use their learned knowledge to provide personal development. 

Mokoena (2013) conducted an interactivity study of online students over a period of three months to assess the quality of online forums. The researcher found that basic and substantive posts were impacted by technical problems, unclear expectations and feedback quality. When there are unclear expectations and a lack of motivation, un-substantive posts increased while substantive posts declined.

The expectations help students visualize how much they should engage the forums and at what level. Even though high performing students may exceed these expectations lower performing students will need this guidance to at least complete the minimum. Both high and low performing students like to know whether or not they are meeting these expectations in order to gauge their performance and effort.

It was also found that technical support is necessary in forums. When technical problems exist students may not engage the forums in a clear manner or may end up skipping certain aspects of their work. Having technical support in a clear and easy to find place will help students find the technological solutions they need quickly.

Instructors can also foster motivation and performance by offering accurate feedback and a summation of the student's work. This depth encourages students to recognize that the instructor actually cares for the student and is taking note of their performance. It also allows the student to recap on their conclusions and have feedback about that synthesis.

The development of strong interaction online requires multiple approaches which includes access, information, expectations, and feedback. When professors can engage with their students well they create a level of expectation and motivation to perform well.  Without this level of interactivity it is doubtful that students will maximize the use of such forums and may soon lose motivation. As with all classes there will be students who perform below, at, and above the expectation. Yet what professors do can enhance this motivation to create a stronger learning environment.

Mokeoena, S. (2013). Engagement with and participation in online discussion forums. Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology, 12 (2). 

Rose, R. & Smith, A. (2007). Chapter 9 online discussions. In Cavanaugh, C. and R. Blomeyer (Eds.), What works in k-12 online learning (pp. 143—160). Washington, DC: International Society for Technology in Education.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Online Interactive Learning Forums

Dr. Arulchelvan from Anna University in India has written a paper in the Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education that analyzes online forums for positive interactivity that fosters learning. The survey was conducted on 250 students from different media courses. He studied what beneficial practices fostered online learning and furthered the educational learning needs of the students. Through this study it was found that interactivity, use of content, and student preferences had a bearing on the learning level. 

Online forums are often difficult to measure and judge. Some focus on content and some focus more on quantity of posts. Quantity of student posts can be an indication that students are interested in particular topics. They will naturally respond to those questions are of more interest to them personally. Analyzing quantity can help determine the overall interest in certain questions which should be fostered in the remaking of the courses in the future. 

Interactively helps students learn by hedging each other’s experiences and knowledge. By discussing issues openly students can learn about varying perspectives on issues and incorporate these perspectives into their understandings and alternative explanations. It also provides the student with a social feedback about the varying ways in which people see these perspectives. 

Professors often use knowledge density, message length, and message count as methods of evaluating online discussion forms. Density includes the overall quality and depth of the work that helps to ensure students understand the material. Length includes the ability to discuss concepts at length. Message count helps professors understand how active students are in the forums. 

The study found that as a learning tool 72% use online forums, 63% blogs, 51% web based training, 38% wikis, 20% podcasts, and 7% learning tools. As a primary method of learning online discussion forums appear to be common. A total of 82% believe online forums support learning while 18% disagreed. Online learning forums appear to have large support among students. 

The type of information that is included in a forum is of interest to students as well. The results show that 90% of students prefer textual explanations, 63% prefer links, 70% prefer images, 19% prefer audio and 64% prefer video. The students gravitated toward text, images, video, and links in their discussion forums. The use of such multimedia may further help engage students through interactivity. 

It is important to ensure that the content of the course is credible and this should be managed by the instructor/moderators. The key topics that create building blocks to the next level of thinking should be controlled. How students understand these things and how they come to these understandings is more open for debate. In general, students will use their personal experiences to determine the validity of the concepts. They will use the forum and its multimedia aspects in ways that encourage higher levels of information obtainment.

Arulchelvan, S. (2011). Online interaction forums as learning tool among the media students- an analysis. Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education, (12), 4.