Unspoken social dynamics in an online discussion group: the disconnect between attitudes and overt behavior of English language teaching graduate students

Celik S.

ETR&D-EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT, vol.61, no.4, pp.665-683, 2013 (SSCI) identifier identifier


Course instructors across a wide range of disciplines have implemented computer-based learning resources such as online discussion boards. While the benefits of implementing an online discussion board in teaching have been well-documented, investigation into the social aspects of online learning environments is still needed in order to develop a deeper understanding of how group dynamics affect the overall learning experience. Accordingly, this action research project was designed to explore the perceptions of graduate students concerning the use of an online discussion board, focusing on whether the character of the interactions evidenced in the content of the discussion was reflected in the participants' views of their experiences. The messages posted to the discussion forum were examined via discourse analysis, while the perceptions of the participants were interrogated through self-administered interviews. The results revealed that while positive group dynamics appeared to be prevalent in the discussion, the perceptions of the individual class members did not always agree with this view. In light of the findings, the researcher outlines some possible solutions for creating an online environment that is conducive to learning for members of a discussion forum with disparate levels of experience, as well as some suggestions for further research.