Blogging vs Threaded Discussions in Online Courses

Proponents of social learning theory believe that learning is based upon an individual’s overall environment. What one observes and experiences has a profound impact on how one makes meaning of information. Learners process information based upon

their shared experiences with others, entering into a phase of learning that includes: attention; retention; reproduction; and ultimately the motivation to alter behavior.Blogging vs Threaded Discussions in Online Courses

In short, social learning purports one’s community and environment are vital to one’s learning.

But how does this apply within online courses? How can students learn from others within a virtual environment?

Instructors of online courses must create a learning environment that differentiates student discussion. But specifically, teachers must incorporate use of student blogging in an online course structure.

Clarke and Kinne (2012) conducted a study that followed two forms of asynchronous discussion amongst students–1.) through use of threaded discussions in a message board and 2.) by blog posts and responses. According to their findings, students felt more engaged and personally connected to other learners by engaging in discourse through blogging.

According to their research, students who blogged about coursework and posted responses to classmates, developed a strong sense of community amongst each other. Because the form of blog writing tends to be less “academic” and more personal, students linked their meaning of academic material to their own lives and experiences. This resulted in more candid and personal discourse amongst the class. While students maintained attention to the various academic topics of study, they did so with their own voice. Students “felt more listed to and valued in their posts than students using discussion boards” (p. 11). Ultimately, this led to the indirect formation of a community of practice, of which students connected their learning experiences to the shared experiences of others.

This was in sharp contrast to the experiences of students that engaged in discourse through threaded discussions via Blackboard learning management system. Students tended to collaborate with peers in a very “academic,” less personal tone.

Nystrand, Wu, Gamoran, Zeiser, and Long (2003) indicate that threaded discussion board conversations tend to mimics the delivery of traditional brick-and-mortar classrooms, in which the teacher is the gatekeeper of knowledge and students occasionally participate. Learning is less social, and therefore, less personal and motivating.

Clarke and Kinne’s research indicates that threaded discussions are missing the element of community amongst its participants, resulting in decreased perception of engagement and empowerment.

Rovai (2007) asserts the goal of online courses should be to create a learning environment that fully motivates and empowers learners to be active in their learning, exchange positive communication with others, and feel engaged/moved by the course. This is how learning becomes social and truly motivating.

For instructors of online courses, this doesn’t mean forever-abandon the use of threaded discussions. Not at all. They have their place. But, this research provides more justification of how instructors can create the conditions that result in the development of a community of practice. This community leads to social learning and student motivation.

References:

Clarke, L, & Kinne, L. (2012). Asynchronous discussions as threaded discussions or blogs. Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education, 29, 4-13.

Nystrand, M., Wu, L., Gamoran, A., Zeisler, S., & Long, D. (2003). Questions in time: Investigating the structure and dynamics of unfolding classroom discourse. Discourse Processes, 35, 135-196.

Rovai, A.P., Wighting, M.J., & Lucking, R. (2004). The classroom and school community inventory: Development, refinement, and validation of a self-report measure for educational research. Internet and Higher Education, 7, 263-280.

 

56 comments for “Blogging vs Threaded Discussions in Online Courses

  1. October 3, 2012 at 3:09 am

    James,
    It was nice to read this blog post, which seems to affirm what I experienced last summer.

    Because there weren’t enough students to teach my regular local college course, I was asked to supervise two education students in an independent study experience. Usually I teach the same children’s literature class using a hybrid method — partly face-to-face and partly online. We have always used threaded discussions, visible to only us, but this year I did not want the three of us to attempt a meaningful discussion. I asked and received some serious backup from members of my PLN when we discussed on a blog. Here is just one of the posts that some of my PLN friends and I used to welcome my students to an online public learning environment.
    http://mrsdkrebs.blogspot.com/2012/07/21st-century-learning.html
    It was a great experience!

    Thanks again,
    Denise

    • larolyn
      July 25, 2013 at 3:48 pm

      Did you “grade” the blogs and if so how and based on what criteria.
      Thanks

  2. October 3, 2012 at 6:18 pm

    It’s not clear that Clark and Kinne looked at differences in facilitation techniques of the teachers in their study; I suspect they did not. Had they considered variations in teacher facilitation of the discussions, I think there would have been in even more to report. My experience tells me that the format, ie. blogging vs threaded, of the discussion has less to do with the quality and depth of the discussion than the nature and frequency of teacher/instructor facilitation. The setup, directions, communicated expectations are also critical to the qualtiy of a discussion.

    I don’t think we can say from what we have, so far, that “research says that blogs are better than threaded discussions.” They’re two different tools with different characteristics; either can lead to quality learning when used by a good teacher.

    • October 3, 2012 at 7:03 pm

      I agree with Dan that blogs and threaded discussions are two different tools. It’s like saying a Crescent wrench is better than channel-lock pliers. Both can be used in a similar way, but there are times when one is a better tool than another. That’s why I keep both in my garage. Other research shows that threaded discussions do promote community, as well. My suggestion: Let’s determine the attributes of each tool and fit the tools to the context at hand. Both tools, in the hands of a thoughtful online instructor, can provide benefits to the students we serve.

      • October 8, 2012 at 10:43 pm

        Yes, I was wondering about facilitation as well as the intent or purpose of the conversations.

      • Chaitanya
        November 29, 2014 at 7:53 am

        I totally believe that two tools that support online communications cannot be debated over.Each tool has characteristics that help in better collaboration in online learning communities.The blog is a place where the writer can present his views clearly and share the knowledge he posses well.Discussion forum is also a source of knowledge which has been built with the contributions of different students who interacted and collaborated with each other over a topic.These two will give best results for collaboration when used effectively.A blog is a knowledge source which provides knowledge shared by one person and knowledge is gained by many.It is one to many.The discussion forum on other hand is many to many.The ideas are shared by many and knowledge is gained by many.Hence I think these tools should not be compared with each other.Instead it should be seen how effective these tools are in a given scenario.

        Chaitanya

        • Vignesh Kumar Kathiresan
          December 11, 2014 at 2:35 am

          Interesting points Chaitanya and Dan on how the two tools should not be compared and each have their own use and are suitable for specific purposes. However I feel both serve the purpose of communication and knowledge building and that blogs hold an edge over discussion forums in that they give a detailed view of the bloggers understanding and others discussion based on that. Each can give their own understanding in their blogs for other students to give feedbacks. Blogs also help the blogger to learn as opposed to what Chaitanya told. The blogger can learn from the feedbacks and opinions given by his peers. There is more mutual learning in blogs than one usually think.

    • Akshaya Bose
      December 8, 2014 at 5:21 am

      I agree with Dan here, because blogging and threading are entirely two different tools.

      According to Schiano, et al. on his research on blogging and its benefits, weblogs or blogs can be described as a form of personal, easy–to–manage Web sites with content presented in reverse chronological order. Bloggers are also frequently described as influential agenda setters. It is similar to a newspaper article where readers can comment on it and discuss about it.

      But threaded discussions on the other hand are similar to discussions online where people get together and build knowledge on a certain idea.

      So they are two different ideas with totally different applications which cannot be compared on a common ground. So the quality of the learning depends on how a teacher can make use of them for different learning purposes.

      • Rohit Chakravarthi
        December 11, 2014 at 5:59 am

        I agree with Akshaya here. To a large extent, blogging and forum use correlated with specific individual learning styles and media affordances: the use of blogs was associated with the ability to create personal space for personal learning, quiet reflection and developing personal relationships with bloggers and others. The use of forums was associated with fast paced challenging interaction, relationships based on sharing of ideas, more open discussion and more links to the discussed themes and bigger picture. Threaded discussions have a lot to do more like debates, for an example.

        Each have specific strengths and it is possible that the best of both could be combined into a very effective learning tool. The lifelong learning potential inherent in blogs makes them attractive to education professionals. If learners have an opportunity to experiment with blogging they can make a decision about its potential for future learning. Some will be motivated by the experience of blogging and adopt it as part of their learning landscape while others will be motivated to move on to others tools that are more in line with their learning styles.

        References – http://itdl.org/journal/nov_06/article01.htm

  3. October 4, 2012 at 10:49 am

    I appreciate the comments Dan and Thomas.

    I think the point is very well taken–nobody should abandon the use of threaded discussions. They have a purpose, and for the structure of some online courses, is one of the few asynchronous tools that can be used for student collaboration/communication with peers.

    For me, the key takeaway from this study was the theme of “community” and “engagement.” According to the study’s outcomes, students who relied solely on threaded discussion were only about 30-40% personally connected to the coursework and their peers, whereas 70-80% felt more so through the use of blog communication.

    I also had some questions about the study’s design methods. This won’t be a study that becomes a landmark, well-grounded study at this time, but is a start. Could be a great catalyst for other online instructors to conduct their own action research.

  4. Judy Arzt
    October 7, 2012 at 5:16 am

    I need to read the original article about the study to learn more about how the research was conducted. The post indicates Blackboard was used for the threaded discussions. The technology used can influence results. Students tend to find Blackboard not “authentic” and a closed environment that they associate with academia, not with the way people outside of higher education communicate. We did not learn from the post what system was used for blogging. Although Blackboard does allow for some blogging, was it used for the blogging in this study? If not, what tool was used? What if Ning which allows for both blogging and forums (threaded discussions) was used? Does the tool itself affect the results? We also need to know about other variables that might have affected results. What were the external variables that the researchers could not control? Again, it does make sense to access the original study for some answers. However, we also need to remember that in a study like this one, the tool and other variables can explain outcomes. That is the, two interventions alone might not fully explain the results.

    • October 7, 2012 at 3:06 pm

      Judy, from a research design perspective…very fair arguments to raise about the study’s methods.

      At the practitioner-level, the awareness of student “engagement” and “community” is the key takeaway from this study.

      Online instructors need to be aware of the environments in which their students will collaborate with peers. Action research and trial-and-error would be best for instructors to determine which yields the greatest ROI.

  5. Tim
    October 11, 2012 at 9:46 pm

    I have been a consumer of five D2L online courses. This sixth course I am taking is the first I have created a blog for. I enjoy blogging and as this article points out I don’t feel as though I’m getting the bang for my buck with threaded discussions. I agree the the instructor still acts as the gate keeper and each one requires at least 2 posts to others posts per week. I feel that responding to others blogs would make me a much more engaged learner.

  6. October 6, 2013 at 7:39 am

    The concept of blogging and threaded discussions is excellent because it is looks as simple concepts but inner concepts are very interesting.Thanks for this.

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  11. Shweta Maheshwari
    November 29, 2014 at 1:25 am

    Both blogs and Discussion threads allow for responses from the community , by its people- new topics can be responded-to by others. Topics in blogs have comments and topics in discussion boards have replies. There is this little difference in syntax that reveals a difference in the roles of the two. The word comment for blogs implies that the author does not need further participation to reach a goal- Its like ‘comment if you want’. While Reply in discussion thread, on the other hand, implies that participation is explicitly requested by the poster. A discussion is not a discussion without a reply.

    Both blogs and discussion threads are correlated to specific individual learning styles and media affordances. Use of blogs has been so far associated with the ability to create personal space for personal learning, developing personal relationships with bloggers and others. While the use of discussion threads has been associated with fast paced challenging interaction, relationships based on sharing of ideas, more open discussion and more links to the discussed themes and bigger picture.

    However, I personally believe that students feel more engaged and feel personally connected to other individuals by engaging in discourse through blogging than discussion threads.

  12. Sarvani
    November 29, 2014 at 4:14 am

    It is a very good piece of writing,however I feel blogs and discussion threads are equally good and they cannot be compared with each other.Blogs and discussion threads which when used effectively will bring out the best from the student.The success of the discussion threads or blogs depends on the people using them and not on the tool itself.The students and instructors get to interact well in a discussion thread provided the students are active and are discussion very well on a given topic.However the same discussion thread will be a fail if the discussion is not happening at all or even if it is happening and it is not productive.Same applies to the blogs,the student might write a piece of article which may not interest others and it turns out to be inactive.But if the blog is well written and the topic is thought provoking it will be a success.I think the success of a tool depends majorly on the people using the tool and the way the tool is being used.

    Thanks,
    Sarvani

  13. Vignesh Kumar Kathiresan
    December 11, 2014 at 12:39 am

    Both Blogs and Threaded are tools for good setups for knowledge sharing in an online classroom. Unlike most of the replies I would take a stand for the blogging as a more effective way of knowledge sharing. First of all with blogs, as the author stated there is a more personal touch and better community feel. A better communal feel will lead to participants being more comfortable and that is when knowledge will be shared. Secondly, Blogs support reflective thinking. It is not just about arguing with others but rather reflective thinking of the bloggers understanding. He will do his best to present it in a best possible way to others. Also the arguments which lead to learning in a threaded discussion can be done in the blog comments. It also aids in better assessment of the students understanding in a topic than in a threaded discussion.

  14. Vignesh Kumar Kathiresan
    December 11, 2014 at 1:24 am

    Both Blogs and Threaded are tools for good setups for knowledge sharing in an online classroom. Unlike most of the replies I would take a stand for the blogging as a more effective way of knowledge sharing. First of all with blogs, as the author stated there is a more personal touch and better community feel. A better communal feel will lead to participants being more comfortable and that is when knowledge will be shared. Secondly, Blogs support reflective thinking. It is not just about arguing with others but rather reflective thinking of the bloggers understanding. He will do his best to present it in a best possible way to others. Also the arguments which lead to learning in a threaded discussion can be done in the blog comments. It also aids in better assessment of the students understanding in a topic than in a threaded discussion.

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