Publication Details

Dawson, S. P. (2006). Online forum discussion interactions as an indicator of student community. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 22 (4), 495-510.


Given the current diversity of communication tools at an educator's disposal, what role (if any) does the discussion forum play in the development of a strong sense of community among students? This study sought to investigate the relationship between discussion forum interaction and perceived student sense of community. The results of the study demonstrate that while mere quantity of discussion forum postings is not an indicator of community development, a significant relationship is observed when contributions are codified into the various discussion interaction types (learner -learner; learner - content; system), An implication emerging from these findings is the ability for the institution to implement evaluative measures to gauge levels of student sense of community in a just in time environment. As discussion interactions are automatically captured and reported, the data provides an indication of the degree of community developing among the student population at a specific snapshot in time. As multiple snapshots provide an ongoing indicator of community development, practitioners have the capacity to develop intervention activities designed to promote further peer to peer discussion and therefore, facilitate the development of a strong sense of community.