Online discussions as a tool for learning: Case study of the benefits of ICT use in a first year teacher education context
This paper is a report of a qualitative case study on the benefits of online discussion for a particular cohort of pre service teacher education students in their first year of a university English programme in Australia (Simpson, 2002). It is told as a first person account of how a university educator, myself, studied a semester of online discussion. My aim was to assess the learning outcomes
encouraged by such computer assisted interaction. When the data was analysed using inductive methods of grounded theory, I discovered that the use of online discussion as a teaching tool successfully addressed three of the Department of Education, Science and Technology (DEST)
objectives for teacher professional development with ICT (DEST, 2001). The case study demonstrates how my students progressed through several approaches to ICT across the learning experiences of one semester that included use of e-mail, discussion boards and the www. Although my original intention when I designed the activity was to help the students learn about online literacy activities called book raps, the outcomes were richer as the students shifted their awareness from basic levels of ICT use to critical awareness of its potential. Hence, the paper raises issues about the potential of online discussions to create rich learning environments in the higher education context
through interaction and engagement in collaborative learning experiences.