Using community development theory to improve student engagement in online discussion: a case study
Online discussion can be designed to develop the skills and confidence of students as well as providing an opportunity for constructing knowledge. If students decide not to participate or join too late, they put their own development and the quality of the learning community at risk. This article reflects on a first term undergraduate experience of a series of online discussion activities which failed to inspire timely and constructive participation. The case study identifies flaws in the design of the discussion, constructed using Salmon’s five-stage model, and shows how easy it is to miss the point when designing an online activity. Participation is a pre-requisite for developing community so this article discusses how professional community development workers identify and overcome barriers to participation strengthening engagement in a community by stimulating personal and emotional interests. In the case study, discussion topics failed to strike a personal chord with many students. This has implications for designing activities that engage each student’s interest from the outset so that participation in the discussion becomes a truly creative experience.
Keywords: online discussion; Salmon’s five-stage model; learning communities; student engagement