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Importance of Quantity and Quality of Participation in Online Classes

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    “Read-Only Participants: A Case for Student Communication in Online Classes” In 2009, L. Nagel, A. S. Blignaut, and J. C. Cronje developed a case study to show the importance of quantity and quality of participation in an online classroom. The case study was composed of 22 graduate level students at the University of Pretoria ranging in ages 30 to 50. Weekly, topics were researched and students were to participate in online discussions.

    Nagel, Blignaut and Cronje looked at the number of times a student logged on, how many times they posted in the course (quantity), and the student’s virtual role in the course (quality). Primary Findings At the end of the eight weeks students were broken into three grade groups: Fail, pass, and distinction. Each group was determined upon by their ending percentage in the course. The foundation of this case study was based upon how participation led to completing the course with a passing grade and how participation related or influenced the overall learning community (Blignaut, Cronje, & Nagle, 2009).

    Student Logons and Discussion Posts Students placed in the fail group were logged into the course less than the other two groups. It was determined that they only viewed approximately half of the course material (Blignaut, et. al, 2009). They also posted in the classroom significantly less as the other two groups. Student’s success was not determined by how many times they logged into the course but more importantly by their participation and the number of discussion posts. Virtual Community Another portion of the case study used the students to grade each other’s contributions.

    Every student received two peer assessments and one facilitator assessment using a rubric where scores were then averaged. Low participation students rarely communicated through the means of the classrooms. Rather, they used email, text message, or phone calls with the facilitator. These students rarely made valuable contributions which resulted in low completion rates and low grades. Students who were successful in the course logged in often, posted often, and replied to other students often.

    These students also willingly provided feedback (Blignaut, et al. , 2009). Conclusion The authors concluded that there were several factors that influenced successful course completion. To complete online based courses a student must not only post their responses and assignments but also reply to their peers. This interaction between students develops a community among them that leads to being successful in the course. Students who were not successful contributed low quality work and had overall less interaction with the class and the facilitator.

    High quality contributions rather than quantity are more likely to build trust among Master level students and build an online community. They believe that a large number of students who lurk in the classroom environment prevent an online community of learners to be formed and is detriment on everyone’s education (Blignaut, et al. , 2009).


    1. Blignaut, A. S. , Cronje, J. C. , Nagel, L. (2009). Read-only: a case for student communication in online classes. Interactive Learning Environments, 17(1), 37-51.

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