Read-Only Participants: A Case for Student Communication in Online Classes – Article Summary

In this paper, Nagel, Blignaut and Cronje (2007) investigate on the significant of ‘visibility’ for online students, apparent in the quality and quantity of participation. The research is based on the past research findings that indicated that successful completion of online courses is considerably low compared to traditional course by about 50%. This situation was highly blamed on lack of students’ participation in online course or due to what is regarded as read-only form of learning. The research is based on a case study that explores the successful completion of online postgraduate course at the University of Pretoria. The research question focused on establishing how online participation associated with successful completion of the course and learning, and how student participation in online classes swayed the learning community.

The researchers employed mixed research methods to collect data. The qualitative research method permitted the researcher to investigate the non-participating students’ context, as well as the reactions and perception of the class. The quantitative research method helped in tracking student activity view in the course. According to the research findings, students with high rate of participation performed much better compared to those who did not participate. It was also established that only students who interacted with the lecturer or contributed in the class succeed in completing the course. The researchers’ calculation affirmed that students who contribute less and with low quality kind of contribution, and those that demonstrate low interaction with their colleagues and lecturer are at high danger of not completing their online course.

According to the researchers, students with low participation demonstrated low log-ins frequency, and this made them missed out on important support required for success. Nagel, Blignaut and Cronje (2007) concluded that formation of virtual community can only be formed through participation where the community benefits from tutoring, facilitation or feedback from the peer and the tutor. Active participation was thus determined as the main aspect that determines the rate of successful completion of online courses.

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