Online discussion boards are being used increasingly by tertiary educators as a tool for encouraging greater student interaction and developing learning communities. In particular, educators who have adopted a learner centered, socio-constructivist approach to teaching have sought to facilitate collaborative learning in which students reflect upon and share their experiences and perspectives, and construct knowledge together through developing shared meanings. This paper presents the findings of an electronic survey of the perceptions of 70 distance education EFL and ESL students concerning a compulsory assessment item involving contribution to an online course discussion board. The study revealed that the majority of the students enjoyed the assessment item and agreed that posting to the online course discussion board had allowed them to achieve a range of cognitive and social learning outcomes, as well as to develop some important graduate skills. In particular, ESL students reported the benefits of posting to the discussion board in terms of sharing their experiences with others and reducing the feeling of isolation. Further, when considering social outcomes, ESL students perceive the discussion board provided them with an opportunity to meet and develop a closer relationship with other students in the course and encouraged them to keep up with their studies.
Volkov, M., & Birch, D. (2007). Assessment of online reflections: Engaging English second language (ESL) students. Australasian journal of educational technology, 23(3), 291-306. https://doi.org/10.14742/ajet.1254