Student discussion differentiates online education from the old correspondence courses. But there are still many questions to answer in order to facilitate good discussion online. Hong Zhiu, of the University of Texas at San Antonio, did a meta-analysis of studies of online discussion over the past 15 years and has interesting findings about participation. These findings can help instructors maximize the benefits of discussion.


A few students dominate. Studies show that a few students tend to dominate discussion, just as a few people tend to dominate face-to-face discussions. Yet, most students still talk more in an online discussion than in a face-to-face environment, lending evidence to the perception that online education tends to draw shy students out of their shells. This is one major advantage of online education, and a reason why discussion should be central to any online course.


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