A Review of Research Methods for Assessing Content of Computer-Mediated Discussion Forums
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Marra, R. (2006). A Review of Research Methods for Assessing Content of Computer-Mediated Discussion Forums. Journal of Interactive Learning Research, 17(3), 243-267. Chesapeake, VA: AACE.
Retrieved from http://www.editlib.org/p/6290.
Journal of Interactive Learning Research
Volume 17, Issue 3, July 2006
Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE) Chesapeake, VA
More Information on JILR
Computer-mediated communication (CMC) technologies are becoming increasingly important components of online educational environments (Romiszowski & Mason, 2004). The online discussion forum that is a significant component of many web-based courses is one type of CMC. Instructors and students rely on these asynchronous forums to engage one another in ways that replace face-to-face communication. The goal of such interactions is to promote critical thinking, meaningful problem solving, and knowledge construction (Kirschner, Strijbos, Kreijns, & Beers, 2004). In spite of the importance of these forums, the most common methods for assessing the content and outcomes of these forums have often been limited to frequency counts and other quantitative measures (Mason, 1992; Romiszowski & Mason, 2004). In order to assess any meaning that results from these discussions, it is necessary to perform some kind of semantic analysis of them. This article provides an overview of current methods of quantitative and qualitative research paradigms for analyzing the content of asynchronous computer-mediated discussion forums. For each analysis method we describe the research method, provide an example of a research study that used that method, describe the types of questions that this method can address, and compare the methods in terms of validity and reliability. Researchers and instructors will be able to use this analysis to become familiar with the choices available and make decisions about appropriate methods for analyzing CMC forums.
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