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Subject line preferences and other factors contributing to coherence and interaction in student discussion forums
Karlstad University, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (starting 2013), Department of Language, Literature and Intercultural Studies. Högskolan Dalarna.
2013 (English)In: Computers and education, ISSN 0360-1315, E-ISSN 1873-782X, Vol. 60, no 1, 172-183 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

A number of factors may affect student interaction in an asynchronous online discussion forum used in learning. This study deals with student preferences for the subject line of messages and in what ways the choice of subject line contributes to coherence and interaction reflected in the textual and interpersonal functions of the linguistic items used. The study also attempts to determine what affects the choices made by participants. Nine separate discussion forums from three different undergraduate courses in English at a Swedish university were used in the study. A total of 98 students and 435 student messages were examined and a number of trends appeared. The functions of the subject line may be summarized as contributing to coherence by reflecting message content in a number of different ways. In addition, the subject line can perform other tasks such as maintaining social relationships among the participants. It is not clear in what ways the subject line contributes to interaction with regard to increasing the reading rate. The trends observed indicate that other factors than subject line content may contribute to whether students are inclined to access a message or not, such as when a message is posted and where it is displayed on the screen. (C) 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Pergamon Press, 2013. Vol. 60, no 1, 172-183 p.
Keyword [en]
Computer-mediated communication; Cooperative/collaborative learning; Post-secondary education; Teaching/learning strategies; Improving classroom teaching
National Category
Educational Sciences Computer and Information Science
URN: urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-34760DOI: 10.1016/j.compedu.2012.07.005ISI: 000312231900016OAI: diva2:770232
Available from: 2013-01-28 Created: 2014-12-10 Last updated: 2016-10-06Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Language and interaction in online asynchronous communication in university level English courses
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Language and interaction in online asynchronous communication in university level English courses
2015 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Interaction involves people communicating and reacting to each other. This process is key to the study of discourse, but it is not easy to study systematically how interaction takes place in a specific communicative event, or how it is typically performed over a series of repeated communicative events. However, with a written record of the interaction, it becomes possible to study the process in some detail. This thesis investigates interaction through asynchronous written discussion forums in a computer-mediated learning environment.

In particular, this study investigates pragmatic aspects of the communicative event which the asynchronous online discussions comprise. The first case study examines response patterns to messages by looking at the content of initial messages and responses, in order to determine the extent to which characteristics of the messages themselves or other situational factors affect the interaction. The second study examines in what ways participants use a range of discourse devices, including formulaic politeness, humour and supportive feedback as community building strategies in the interaction. The third study investigates the role of the subject line of messages in the interaction, for example by examining how participants choose different types of subject lines for different types of messages. The fourth study examines to what extent features serving a deictic function are drawn on in the interaction and then compares the findings to both oral conversation and formal academic discourse.

The overall findings show a complex communicative situation shaped by the medium itself, type of activity, the academic discipline and topic of discussion and by the social and cultural aspects of tertiary education in an online learning environment. In addition, the findings may also provide evidence of learning.


Abstract [en]

The four case studies presented in Language and interaction in online asynchronous communication in university level English courses investigate written discussion forum interaction in a computer-mediated learning environment. These studies deal with different, yet related, aspects of discussion forum communication. Aspects included are the labeling and response patterns of messages, community-building strategies among participants and features of informal conversation and formal academic writing in the messages. Building on discourse analysis combined with content analysis and corpus method, the work systematically examines the linguistic patterns of communication in the discussion forums. The findings show that there are multiple factors at work simultaneously that affect the linguistic choices by the discourse participants. The constraints and opportunities of the communication are not only connected to the fact that it is computer-mediated, but also to the fact that it is written and in a particular academic environment. Knowledge of the choices available and of what factors potentially affect them is useful for anybody involved in research on net-based teaching and learning.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Karlstad: Karlstads universitet, 2015. 77 p.
Karlstad University Studies, ISSN 1403-8099 ; 2015:5
Discussion forums, asynchronous CMC, net-based learning, interaction, discourse
National Category
Specific Languages
Research subject
urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-34757 (URN)978-91-7063-616-5 (ISBN)
Public defence
2015-02-06, Fryxellsalen, 1B 306, Universitetsgatan 2, 651 88 Karlstad, 10:15 (English)
Available from: 2015-01-20 Created: 2014-12-10 Last updated: 2015-12-28Bibliographically approved

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