Online Social Interchange, Discord, and Knowledge Construction
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Online forums provide potential for new forms of collaborative work, study, and community that reduce barriers of time and distance. Yet the types of interaction and means by which individuals create new knowledge in online environments are not well understood. This study presents the results of an exploratory multimethod evaluation study and transcript analysis of an online forum. The researchers used a constructivist interaction analysis model developed by Gunawardena, Lowe, and Anderson (1997) to help understand and assess online learning. The model describes the phases that are attributed to learning development in an online forum. Analysis of the transcripts revealed that most of the online interactions during the forum were at the lower phases of the interaction analysis model. In addition, the researchers studied the interaction patterns that occurred during the online forum. Social-cognitive processes were observed among participants in the forum. The processes included significant time engaged in social interchange followed occasionally by social discord. The social discord served as a catalyst to the knowledge construction process observed. The results of the study illustrate that there are many types of structures, motivations, and applications of online interaction that make the understanding of this communication medium both challenging and exciting.