Interaction, critical thinking, and social network analysis (SNA) in online courses
Keywords:constructivism, critical thinking, distance education, online learning, peer facilitators, social network analysis, student moderators, teacher education
This study tried to ascertain a possible relationship between the number of student moderators (1, 2, and 3), online interactions, and critical thinking of K-12 educators enrolled in an online course that was taught from a constructivist approach. The course topic was use of technology in special education. Social network analysis (SNA) and measures of critical thinking (Newman, Webb, & Cochrane, 1995) were used to research and assess if there was a difference in interaction and critical thinking between 1, 2, or 3 student moderators who facilitated a forum discussion of an assignment in an online course. The same course was repeated over three years. Each year either 1, 2, or 3 students moderated. The analysis indicated more discussion per non-moderating student with the three student moderated group. Using SNA we found that there was only one noticeable difference among the three groups which was in the value of network centralization. Using critical thinking measures the three student moderator group scored higher in five of the eight critical thinking categories. Variations in instructor presence in the online courses may have influenced these findings.
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