Maria Trache

Meaningful Online Discussions in an Online Master’s Research Methods Course


Maria Trache, PhD
Associate Professor
Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, College of Education

The issue of meaningfulness of online discussions is crucial in creating a truly engaging virtual environment that fosters active learning. Even more difficult is to attain this goal in a graduate research methods course that has one main objective: help students develop the mindset required to think through, design, execute and evaluate research studies. The purpose of my project is to examine the content of students’ posts in response to instructor questions and the extent of interaction among students responding to each other in a graduate research methods course offered entirely online. The idea is to understand the dynamics of online discussions and whether students are truly engaged and interested in the discussion or are just trying to respond in order to accumulate points. The main research questions are: What is the frequency of student participation in weekly online discussions? Which online contributions can be characterized as meaningful? What are the characteristics of students who engage in meaningful discussions? Are meaningful discussions related to positive course outcomes as measured by final grades or other measures? The final project could be a journal paper, but a presentation of preliminary findings and personal reflections will be included in a narrated PowerPoint.