Katrina A. Meyer. “The Method (and Madness) of Evaluating Online Discussions. The Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, volume 10, number 4 (2006): 83-97.
Abstract: In addressing how to evaluate online discussions, this paper will describe several concepts, tools, or frameworks that have been used in evaluations and discuss differences in approach based on instructor purpose, be it research, assessment, or learning. Then several common problems are described, including use of content analysis, identification of latent content, inadequate training of coders, lack of reliability, and choosing the correct unit of analysis. Two examples are provided of coding decisions made on portions of student discussions; these examples use two different frameworks to elucidate the process and its difficulties. Conclusions focus on the importance of following standard good research or assessment practice and preparing for a time-consuming and often frustrating coding process.
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