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"A Community of Opinion and Debate": Postgraduate Students’ Reactions to Compulsory Online Discussions

"A Community of Opinion and Debate": Postgraduate Students’ Reactions to Compulsory Online Discussions
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Author(s): Elizabeth A. Beckmann (The Australian National University, Australia)
Copyright: 2012
Pages: 22
Source title: Student Reactions to Learning with Technologies: Perceptions and Outcomes
Source Author(s)/Editor(s): Kathryn Moyle (Charles Darwin University, Australia) and Guus Wijngaards (Inholland University, The Netherlands)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61350-177-1.ch004

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Abstract

Discussion-based learning is a crucial element in postgraduate professional development, particularly important in facilitating peer learning through the sharing of professional experiences. In courses with distance or blended delivery, educational technologies provide opportunities to encourage such peer learning. But do postgraduate students value asynchronous online discussions in the same way as they value the equivalent face-to-face experiences? Do educational technologies have a role to play in facilitating discussions even when students are meeting face to face? Is it helpful to make an online discussion compulsory? This chapter reports design-based research on student reactions to compulsory assessment tasks that involved a variety of asynchronous online discussion structures—from individual reflective journals to large group forums—in 14 Masters courses in development studies and museum studies at an Australian university. Using the students’ own reflections on their learning experiences, this chapter considers the extent to which the use of technologies can enhance or impede the reflective and peer-responsive learning sought by the inclusion of discussions in the postgraduate education of professionals.

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