n South African Journal of Higher Education - Dispelling e-myths and pre-empting disappointment : exploring incongruities between instructors' intentions and reality in asynchronous online discussions

Volume 29, Issue 4
  • ISSN : 1011-3487



Provided that effective practices in online instructional design are met and e-myths regarding online learning are contested, asynchronous online discussions (AODs) may promote productive interaction, reflecting knowledge sharing, knowledge construction, and knowledge creation or hybrids of these discourses. Within a naturalistic higher education setting, the authors revisited lingual data analysed in a previous study, employing Booth and Hultén's (2003) taxonomy of pivotal contributions to online discussions to describe students' 'talk' during text-based AODs. The taxonomy constituted a more comprehensive model of productive online discussion than that used in the earlier study. Contrary to the authors' initial assumptions as novice e-instructors that students would not only share knowledge, but also co-construct knowledge, there was little evidence of the latter. In terms of Booth and Hultén's (2003) analytic framework, functional moves were predominantly factual, while reflective contributions were uncommon. In other words, knowledge-sharing discourse rather than knowledge-construction discourse was the norm. In addition, participatory contributions were rare. The findings indicated that there was a mismatch between the authors' expectations about students' levels of cognitive engagement during their discussions and the instructional design. Thus, the authors interrogate their assumptions and identify design considerations that should underpin online pedagogy as it pertains to meaningful online discussion.

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