The Effectiveness of Online Synchronous Discussion

Robert A. Schultz
InSITE 2003  •  Volume 3  •  2003
I have been exploring ways to incorporate online techniques into my MBA course in Management of Information Technology. The course uses small-group discussion of case studies, so online synchronous discussion seemed appropriate. After a small-scale successful experiment, I offered most of the spring 2001 course offering online. Although the students were enthusiastic, I got the disturbing feeling students were not really learning from the online discussions. So I administered a short multiple-choice post-test to the class. I gave the same test to a later class with virtually identical material delivered traditionally. Scores were about 20% higher for the traditional group, and statistical analysis verifies that this difference is not due to chance. So synchronous online discussion seems less effective than classroom instruction in this context. I suggest possible reasons for the lesser effectiveness of this online technique and consider what other online techniques might be more effective for this material.
online instruction, synchronous discussion, threaded discussion, online infrastructure, instructional effectiveness
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