A review of rubrics for assessing online discussions
This introductory section seeks to provide background information on the key themesin this paper, which are: online discussion boards, online writing, and assessment.
Educational benefits of discussion boards
The educational benefits of online discussion boards are well known and longestablished. Jonassen, Davison,
(1995) expressed their suitability for learning asfollows:
“The dialogue serves as an instrument for art
iculation because in the processof explaining, clarifying, elaborating, and defending ideas, cognitive processes
involving integration, elaboration and structurisation took place”.
Newman, Webb and Cochrane (1995) found that students contributed more outsidematerial and experiences, and integrated ideas better, when using online discussions.Hoag and Baldwin (2000) report that students learn more in an online collaborativeclass than in a face-to-face classroom, and they also acquire greater experience of team work, communication, time management, and technology.Some academics have claimed that asynchronous discourse is inherently self-reflective and therefore more conducive to deep learning than synchronous discourse(see Riel, 1995, for example). Berlin
er (1987) reported that the increased “wait time”
(the time available to discuss each topic) increases the opportunities for reflectivelearning.Swan, Shen, & Hiltz (2006) summarise the benefits of online forums:
“Many researchers note that students perc
eive online discussion as more equitable and more democratic than traditional classroom discussions because it gives equal voice to all participants. Online asynchronous discussion also affords participants
the opportunity to reflect on their classmates’ c
ontributions while creating their own, and to reflect on their own writing before posting it. This creates a certain mindfulness and reflection among students. In addition, many researchers have noted the way participants in online discussion perceive the social presence of their colleagues, creating feelings of community. Such findings have led educators to conclude that asynchronous online discussion is a particularly rich vehicle for
supporting collaborative learning.”
The reduction in constraints on time and place can result in pressures on studentsand faculty to read and participate in online forums (see, for example, Gabriel, 2004,Hiltz and Wellman, 1997, and Wyatt, 2005). Peters and Hewitt (2009) carried outformal interviews with 57 post-graduate students undertaking an online programmeand discovered that the volume of messages was their greatest frustration.
The lack of visual communication clues, “disembodied learning” as Dreyfus (2002)
put it, can cause conflict and anxiety among learners. Mixed patterns of participationare common, with some learners dominating discussions and some inhibited fromcontributing. The text-only format of traditional discussion boards can also inhibitinteraction and can disadvantage learners with poor writing skills.