Differences in student performance between linear and spatial discussion boards for debate and topical discussions



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This study explored the use of a visual-spatial discussion board format as an alternative to traditional linear discussion boards in online classes. The type of discussion prompt can impact the quality of discussion; therefore, two types of discussion prompts were used, topical and debate, to see if the discussion board format was more effective for one type of prompt than the other. Students interacted more frequently in the spatial format when they were given the debate prompt and more frequently on the linear discussion board when given the topical prompt. However, there was no statistically significant difference in the quality of the posts between the two discussion board formats. Students given the debate prompt showed higher levels of cognitive processing than those given the topical prompt regardless of the discussion board format. There was no measurable difference between any of the conditions regarding the ability of students to synthesize the content of the discussions. Students generally preferred the linear discussion board format across all student perception measures, but familiarity with the format may have influenced their opinions. This study suggests that visual-spatial discussion board formats may be a good alternative to linear discussion boards for some types of discussions, but further exploration is needed.



Discussion boards, Discussion prompts, Online learning, Online discussions