General introduction to the research
Technology has managed to enter into nearly every aspect of a learner's learning journey from storing their personal details to assisting them with their learning and management of this learning. Regardless of the task, there shall always be certain technologies around that shall enable the learner to participant in and manage their learning as effectively as possible.
Technology during the past thirty years has enabled learners to participate in classroom activities in many different ways. No doubt many of you who are in your thirties reading this probably were first introduced to the BBC Micro back in Primary School in the eighties! Computers, of course, have advanced dramatically, along with their capabilities and capacity to act as an effective platform to enable learners to learn more about their subject through video, audio, animation, through text, images, and the aspect that shall be the focus of this research: online discussions.
General introduction to the specific Ph.D. research
Discussion forums have the interactive features necessary to inspire and encourage debate and discussion among a group of participants, and provide the tracking, recording and tracing features that can facilitate research of various social, psychological and learning processes that occur within them.
Existing models of exploring discussion forums, however, lacks rigorous theorising and explorations of how and why knowledge construction occur. Existing models are effective at explaining and exploring what collaborative knowledge construction activities occur, and some writers attempt to explain when these particular activities occur, but little in the way of how and why they occur. Additionally, none of these existing models or theories includes any participant perspectives about collaborative knowledge construction processes from those who have taken part in an online debate and collaborative knowledge construction efforts.
This research, therefore, utalises a research design that includes both investigations of discussion forums and participant perspectives of the process.
Potential impact on Education
The most likely area of impact is theory particularly those related to understanding the way that knowledge is constructed within a collaborative environment, and also contributions towards understanding the way in which forums can facilitate group debate and collaborative knowledge construction discussions. Practice is also another area in which this research could have an impact, in that the research aims to progress the understanding of the way in which forums can be used, and to provide advice and guidance relating to how discussions can progress.