Title: Labelling contributions made in university forums: comparing the use of compulsory and optional scaffolds in specific forum environments

Authors: Noemí Verdú; Jaume Sanuy

Addresses: Teaching Innovation and e-Learning Support Area, University of Lleida, C/Jaume II, 71, 25001 Lleida, Spain ' Department of Pedagogy and Psychology, University of Lleida, Avda. Estudi General, 4, 25001 Lleida, Spain

Abstract: Virtual forums are commonly used in higher education, yet they do not always yield desirable results. This study analyses whether the students' contributions are more elaborate when the categorisation of their messages prior to making a contribution is compulsory rather than optional. Using a coding scheme based on Stahl's (2000) model of collaborative knowledge building, the content of messages from 30 forums in different subjects was analysed. The results show that processes of explanation are used the most. In contrast, negotiations and formalisation are used very little, if at all. Furthermore, the results highlight that compulsory - as opposed to optional - assignation of a scaffold prior to making a contribution does not make discourse any more elaborate. However, it is confirmed that students learn merely by having labels available for use. Consequently, we suggest that scaffolds and other cognitive and communicative tools be incorporated into general forums.

Keywords: scaffolding; thinking types; CSCL; computer-supported collaborative learning; e-learning; electronic learning; online learning; higher education; knowledge building; university forums; virtual forums; student contributions; message content; collaborative knowledge building; explanation; negotiation; formalisation; compulsory scaffold assignation; labels.

DOI: 10.1504/IJKL.2015.077553

International Journal of Knowledge and Learning, 2015 Vol.10 No.4, pp.364 - 383

Received: 07 Jul 2015
Accepted: 28 Mar 2016

Published online: 05 Jul 2016 *

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