Who you know and what you know: Student interaction in online discussions

Tony Stevens

Abstract


The dynamics of how students respond to each other during online discussions in a blended learning environment remains under-explored in the literature.  How this technology shapes interaction when used in conjunction with traditional teaching methods and the practices of learners in these multi-site situations is a significant educational issue.  Using mixed-methods, this study drew on social interaction constructs such as: exchange theory; reciprocity; and propinquity to explore practices within a discussion forum in a blended-learning setting.  In addition to confirming these well-established constructs accounting for student-interaction, the issue of responding to others perceived as ‘knowledgeable’ was uncovered, and the mechanisms behind this particular response were examined further.  The study reveals an assemblage of practices overlapping and inter-locking with the emergent learning experience, in both online and traditional spaces.


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