Online Group Discussions, The New Social Presence? (A Pilot Study)
Abstract: This pilot study aims to extend studies on instructors views on online classroom discussions in online learning. Specifically, it is also to evaluate the current tools used, their effectiveness, the instructors views on social presence and facilitation of online group discussions. 5 instructors in higher education were interviewed using informant interviews (n =5). Overall the findings suggested that most instructors found that online instruction is effective and engaging but there is need for developing ways for increasing social presence. Students were also found to be more engaged when there were discussions for graded assignments. Cross comparisons of the information from the five participants revealed that: it is important to have online group discussion platforms that are manageable and easy to control, instructors need to provide information for a good online group discussion performance and student participation, the facilitators instructions in online group discussions influence performance. It is also found that it is difficult to assess the emotion of the student in asynchronous online discussions. Recommendations include need for simulation of online group discussions and that institutions should have priority in design and funding of learning online group discussion tools.