Design and Effects of a Concept Focused Discussion Environment in E-Learning

Erdi Okan YILMAZ1, Halil YURDUGUL2
1Aca. Specialist. Usak University, Usak, Turkey.
2Assoc. Prof. Dr. Hacettepe University, Ankara, Turkey.
DOI: 10.14689/ejer.2016.63.20


Problem Statement: Within the frame of learning management systems, this study develops a concept focused discussion environment and validates the effectiveness of this environment’s use through an experimental study.

Purpose of the Study: Online discussion forums, which are commonly used in learning management systems (LMS), can negatively influence the integration and motivation of learning in terms of learner-content and learner-learner interactions, as online discussions take place in a physical situation apart from the content environment. The development of the concept focused discussion environment (CFDE) and its integration into into LMS as well as another environment, LMS TDE (traditional discussion environment), which possess a hierarchical threaded discussion structure, are assessed in terms of learning perceptions, usefulness perceptions, qualities of the messages sent to discussion environments, and student learning styles.

Method: The experimental design of the research is structured in the “application and final test” form (Karasar, 2007). Experiment group students (44) joined online learning environments in which the concept focused discussion environment (CFDE) was embedded, and on the other hand, control group students (46) joined online learning environments that possessed a traditional discussion environment (TDE). After the experimental work, scales measuring learning perception in discussion environments, usefulness perception in discussion environments, and contribution quality analysis (degree assessment type) were applied.

Findings: At the end of the research, the study found that CFDE that draws on students’ perceptions of learning and usability is more effective than TDE that uses students’ perceptions. In addition, the messages sent in the discussion environments were analyzed in terms of contribution quality. The relation between students’ learning styles and their perception of learning was investigated. Messages sent in CFDE were compared to messages sent in TDE in terms of knowledge validity, cognitive attempt effort, showing understanding of the subject, showing sample reference, being understandable, involving cooperation, and orientation skills; the comparison revealed significant differences. Finally, the research also examined learning styles and learning perception relationships. Developed CFDE demonstrates no differences between students with tendencies toward ordered or integrated learning; in contrast, TDE creates negative effects and inequality for students that have sequential learning style (according to cognitive and affective learning perceptions) in particular. The case can be made that CFDE removes this inequality.

Conclusion and Recommendations: This study, in contrast with current LMSs, designed a new product to integrate content and discussion boards. Integrating content and discussion boards with each other as we did in this study will increase students’ learning perception and decrease the individual differences between students.

Keywords: Discussion forum, online learning environment, learning styles, learning management system.