Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date

Winter 11-2-2012


In the “age of globalization,” construction of effective learning environments takes into account the development of a community of inquiry and incorporates visual tools for quick evaluation of the vibrancy of the learning environment. Discussion forums are an essential tool for co-construction of knowledge in a community of practice (Lave and Wenger, 1991) and for supporting a Community of Inquiry model (Garrison et al, 2003). For the purposes this session, effective online discussions are communications that build community and take place in forums designed for threaded, text-based interaction that help learners:

  • Attain course learning outcomes
  • Understand course content through collaborative knowledge-construction
  • Engage in learning via multiple pedagogical formats (debate, role play, etc.)
  • Forge connections with the instructor and peers

Quickly evaluating the quality of interaction in discussions can be difficult using common learning management systems’ visual and numerical display and filtering tools. At the same time, learning analytics tools are increasingly used to provide instructors with data to improve the instructional context for learners. A team from the Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC) developed a tool, SNAPP, which generates visual networked diagrams of discussion board interactions. The report from this team by Dawson et al (2011) identified several diagram patterns that indicate lack of interaction and asserted a typical pattern that indicates a healthy learning community. These models were created to assist in course design and facilitation interventions. This study will incorporate the model developed by Dawson et al and apply their modeling to online discussions to evaluate the use of learning analytics to inform evaluation of the effectiveness of course design and facilitation.