Using online discussion in teaching undergraduate psychology

Wendy A. McKenzie

Abstract


Enthusiastic support for the use of online communication in teaching has led to one of the fastest growing uses of technology in education, particularly in open learning and distance education (Bates 1995). Many of the applications discussed in the literature rely on asynchronous, textbased computer conferencing, hereafter referred to as online discussion groups. This emphasis probably reflects the uptake of a technology with which many are already familiar (based on email), that affords flexibility for people separated by time and place, and is currently more reliable and accessible (compared to, for example, audio or video-conferencing). One aim of the paper is to illustrate how particular models relevant to the use of online discussion in teaching and learning can be used to inform practice in terms of identifying the purpose of the online interaction and the management of this interaction (e.g. the role of the moderator). These issues are discussed in the context of using online discussion in an undergraduate psychology subject, and the second part of the paper reports on the results of an evaluation of the effectiveness of this discussion group as a learning resource for students.

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