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Title: Discussion forums in a blended learning approach for social studies : the influence of cognitive learning styles on attitudes towards asynchronous collaboration in a South East Asian university
Author: Doiron, Joseph Auguste Gilles
ISNI:       0000 0004 2714 1903
Awarding Body: Durham University
Current Institution: Durham University
Date of Award: 2008
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To keep pace with ubiquitous computing in all aspects of society, universities have invested heavily in off-the-shelf or in-house learning management systems, and teachers are being encouraged to seek ways in which to optimize the role of information and communication technology to support their teaching and learning activities; both on the campus and beyond campus borders. However, many students in residential universities are resistant to embracing CMC-mediated activities as an integral part of their coursework, and this attitude underscores the importance of understanding how these students are affected by the implementation of the new teaching and learning strategies associated with a 'blended learning' approach. This study explores a particular context in which discussion forums were deployed as a replacement to traditional face-to-face tutorial discussions. Research subjects (n=147), health psychology students at a South East Asian university, completed a Felder Soloman Index of Learning Styles (ILS) questionnaire before being assigned to online discussion forum groups of 8 or 9 students per group. During the 9 weeks of the tutorial assignment activity, student interactions in the discussion forums were monitored and transcripts of their postings and replies were analysed and coded. Quantitative data from attitude survey MCQs, grades, peer ratings and usage statistics, as well as qualitative data from attitude survey open-answer questions and one-to-one interviews, were also gathered and analysed. The findings identified a number of weaknesses and drawbacks of using discussion forums: notably that students who felt uncomfortable about expressing their opinions in discussion forums also had difficulty understanding what was being communicated in the postings and didn't trust their group members; students who were identified as having a moderate to strong 'Sequential' cognitive learning style preference were more likely to indicate that they had a difficult time working in the discussion forums; and students who were identified as having a moderate to strong 'Active' cognitive learning style preference tended to make fewer forum postings. Nevertheless, since the scope of the information quoted, and opinions generated, in the discussion forum postings was noticeably greater than what was generally brought up in face-to-face discussions, and because the majority of students worked independently and responsibly, this particular blended learning approach was deemed a success by the course instructor. However, the author puts forward a number of recommendations to instructional designers, practitioners and students for designing, setting up and running a similar but more flexible approach as an alternative to traditional large-class face-to-face tutorial discussions.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ed.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available