Use of online asynchronous discussion boards to engage students, enhance critical thinking, and foster staff-student/student-student collaboration: a mixed method study
Osborne, DM, Byrne, JH, Massey, DL & Johnston, ANB 2018, 'Use of online asynchronous discussion boards to engage students, enhance critical thinking, and foster staff-student/student-student collaboration: a mixed method study', Nurse Education Today, vol. 70, pp. 40-46.
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Background:The ongoing challenges of managing large student enrolments and increasing demand from stu-dents for online learning platforms and teaching strategies has helped drive tertiary implementation of asyn-chronous online discussion boards (AOD). However, supporting and assessing students in such a forum remainscontentious.
Methods:This explorative, mixed methods study examined and evaluated the usage and perceptions of a uniqueform of AOD used in a postgraduate nursing course. Student survey and semi-structured interviews with staff(n= 3) were used to explore the structures, processes and outcomes of inclusion of an AOD in this online course.Triangulation of themes emerging from the staffinterviews, survey outcomes, and student free text responsesenabled appraisal of AOD, focusing primarily on its contribution to course content and assessment.
Results:Students' survey responses (approx. 24% of the cohort;n= 34) were largely positive. Themes that arosefrom the qualitative data included i) AOD to build a sense of student community, ii) AOD to encourage inter-action with and deliberation of course content, iii) stimuli and challenges around assessing the discussion board,and iv) easy to use IT interface made it a more positive experience. Student responses suggested that scaffolding,feedback and sufficient time allocation were required. Many factors impacted on student interaction with theAOD, including a lack of time due to paid work and other coursework and assessments.
Discussion:Overall, staffand students reported the assessed AOD was a positive course component. It en-couraged engagement with staff, other students and the subtleties of complex course content, critical appraisaland discussion of evidence, and application to clinical practice. Exemplars and explicit marking criteria settingout the need for informed contributions were considered crucial by all stakeholders.