It has been said that for deeper learning to occur, learning must be social, active, contextual, engaging and student owned (Carmean & Haefner, 2002). Others have suggested that the learning process is transitioning from cognitive theories based on the individual to theories that stress the importance of the social nature of learning (Dawson, 2006) . Dawson et al (2006) states, numerous authors have espoused the importance for developing social learning opportunities where students actively debate, exchange and clarify ideas with other peers. Irrespective of learning theory, there is little doubt that social interaction plays an important part in learning and for the fully online student in a university course, the LMS discussion forum is the main enabler for social discourse and interaction during their course.
The following figures demonstrate the difference between on-campus and distance students in how they interact with the LMS.
What isn’t shown here is that when forum discussions are embedded into the course to meet specific course objectives as opposed to just providing a space for spontaneous student interaction, the proportion of the course that is forum activity increases.
Carmean, C., & Haefner, J. (2002). Transforming Course Management Systems into Effective Learning Environments [Electronic Version]. Educause, November/December 2002, from http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ERM0261.pdf
Dawson, S. (2006). Online forum discussion interactions as an indicator of student community. Australian Journal of Educational Technology, 22(4), 495-510.