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An Online Composition Course

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In reviewing the survey responses, I found that most of the students did find great value in using the discussion board and peer reviews. As I noted previously, I did not ask questions that would directly provide insight to students' thoughts on the sense of community, but their responses did suggest the recognition of the importance of both collaboration and interaction in their online courses. Based on this, I would say that in most cases, a sense of community was developed.

Very few students did not appreciate the discussion board assignments. Much of the students' enjoyment of interaction with others that I perceived came from the opportunity to learn from experiences and perspectives different from their own. It seemed to me an especially valuable lesson when one of the students, whose comments are posted, discovered via interaction with others the specific ways that many different factors such as race, gender, birth location, political alliances, and familial and marital status (among other factors) could affect thoughts and opinions. On the other hand, in another one of the examples posted, a student had a negative experience using the discussion board, due to the lack of responses from his peers. These experiences suggest that interaction and collaboration are essential components of a sense of community in online environments.

Additionally, many students found the peer review to be a valuable experience. Some mentioned that it provided learning opportunities in the areas of content and editing. Other students emphasized that they were able to learn more about others’ thoughts by reading their peers’ writing. It was interesting to see that a few students alluded to learning more by reading the comments that their peers provided about their papers than they would have learned otherwise. There were, however, more students who did not appreciate the peer reviews. Although a few students said that there was no real benefit from the peer reviews, the majority of them expressed feelings of inadequacy or a lack of trust in their peers’ feedback as the reasons they did not value these assignments. A few students provided responses describing general opinions that peer response was a good idea and appropriate for the class but that it did not suit them individually.

Overall, I would say that this study provided useful answers to my questions about how interaction and collaboration in the discussion board might serve to provide a community for online students. Although not all students develop that sense of community in the online class, it appears that most do, but further research will help offer additional specificity.