Paper Abstract: Exploring the Role of Discussion Forums in Promoting Collaborative Learning in Healthcare Online Environment

DiscussionForum The twenty-first century workplace requires innovative online learning and technologies that can offer opportunities for collaboration and flexibility; all with the goal of creating forums for sharing and exchange of knowledge.  In response to advances in distributed learning platforms and the changing nature of  learner demographics, an online asynchronous learning environment is emerging that seeks to engage in activities that support interaction and collaboration.  These activities, which rely on learning, sharing, inquiry and group participation, are emerging as learning communities which can be described as:

“a group of people, connected via technology-mediated communication, who actively engage one another in collaborative learn-centered activities to intentionally foster the creation of knowledge, while sharing a number of values and practices” (Ludwig-Hardman, 2003 in Wilson, Ludwig-Hardman, Thornam & Dunlop, 2004, p.2).

This paper seeks to explore how online discussion forums, as a web 2.0 social media learning environment, promote collaborative learning in healthcare environments when enabled by appropriate engagement and motivational learning pedagogy.  As an Organizational Development Specialist working within an Ontario community healthcare organization, I view the workplace through a lens of improving system effectiveness with the goal of influencing and creating positive change for staff and all associated stakeholders. Funded by the Ministry of Health, part of my role is to continually be seeking new opportunities and innovations that promote staff learning and spark organizational change.

Working in an environment that is constantly changing and evolving related to systematic and political pressure drivers, the necessity exists to offer interactive online learning that promotes not only learning but flexibility with a workforce that is predominately decentralized. Scovotti and Spiller (2011) suggested “globalization has fueled the need for collaboration over substantial geographical distances, prompting businesses to adopt technologies that facilitate communication and ongoing interaction among a distributed and diverse workforce” (p.57).  Further, Junk, Deringer and Junk (nd) noted in the Sloan Consortium of Fall 2007 that  “3.9 million students were enrolled in online classes which is a 12 percent increase over the number reported in 2006” (p.1), suggesting that educational materials and resources must be intentionally developed, structured and distributed using pedagogy that best supports an online learning environment.

Further linkages for learning within discussion forums, asynchronous environments, will be explored through the lens of social presence, seen as a key enabler for collaborative and learning communities.   Role of facilitator and learners will be delved into within discussion forums, seeking value add and challenges.  These asynchronous forums, described as computer-mediated communications, will finally be applied and relevancy to the healthcare system discussed.

Draft References:

Berge, Z. (2002). Active, interactive, and reflective elearning. The Quarterly Review of Distance Education. 3(2), p 181-190

Harris, N. and Sandor, M. (2007). Developing online discussion forums as student centred peer elearning environments.  Proceedings ascilite Singapore.  p.383-387

Junk, V., Deringer, N. & Junk, W. (nd).  Techniques to engage the online learner.  Retrieved electronically 13 October 2013 from

Kanuka, H., and Garrison, D. (2004). Cognitive presence in online learning.  Journal of Computing in Higher Education, 15(2), p.30-48

Ludwig-Hardman, S. (2003). Case study: instructional design strategies that contribute to the development of online learning community.  Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Colorado, Denver

McLoughlin, D. and Mynard, J. (2009). An analysis of higher order thinking in online discussions.  Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 46(2). p.147-160

Scovoti, C. and Spiller, L.D. (2011). Cross-border student collaborations: opportunities for videoconferencing. Marketing Education Review, 21(1), p.57-61

Wang, C.X., Jaeger, D., Liu, and Nie. N. (2013). Using synchronous technology to enrich student learning.  TechTrends, 57(1), p.20-25

Vygotsky, L. (1986). Thought and language.  Cambridge, MA: the MIT Press.

Wilson, B.G., Ludgwig-Hardman, S., Thornam, C.L and Dunlop, J.C. (2004). Bounded community: designing and facilitating learning communities in formal courses.  The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning.  November. p. 1-19.


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