Galletly & Carciofo

Using an Online Discussion Forum in a Summative Coursework Assignment

Richard Galletly, Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University

Richard Carciofo, Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University


The widespread availability of educational technology has made online discussion forums (ODFs) an increasingly viable teaching resource, but teachers may lack guidance on approaches for making effective use of ODFs in their curricula. The current study reports on how an ODF was incorporated into a summative coursework assignment for an English for Academic Purposes (EAP) course for undergraduate business students at a Joint Venture university in China. As part of the coursework assignment, the students were organized into online discussion groups for a topic related to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Students were required to post an opinion, reply to three other opinions, and then include an account of their online discussions in a summative coursework research report. Content analysis of a sample of these coursework reports showed evidence of engagement with forum posts through: a) synthesis of students’ views, b) relating views to theory or practice, c) critical and reflective thinking about the forum posts, d) critical thinking about the forum methodology, and e) explicit stance-taking. This study demonstrates a potential application of ODFs in the context of a coursework assignment and supports the view that ODFs may provide an effective platform for students to share opinions in a course-related task outside of scheduled classes.

Keywords: online discussion forums; collaborative learning; online interaction; EAP.

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