Participation in Online Discussions: Traditional Vs. Nontraditional Students
Abstract: Increasingly, nontraditional students are participating in online courses; yet their characteristics and needs are unique from traditional students. Educators must use these characteristics to inform instructional decisions. Because online discussions are among the most common instructional strategies used in online courses, research on nontraditional students’ participation in discussions can help with these decisions. This study compared the participation of nontraditional and traditional students in online discussions. Independent samples t-tests were used to compare the groups on the overall number of posts, two overall types of posts (substantive and nonsubstantive), and specific types of substantive and nonsubstantive posts. Results showed that nontraditional students participated significantly more than traditional students overall and with regard to substantive and nonsubstantive posts. Nontraditional students posted significantly more posts coded as elaborate, sidetrack, and chat. Results suggest that nontraditional students are more prolific responders in online discussions.