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Abstract

The influence of asynchronous discussion in a virtual learning environment, Blackboard, on subsequent coursework grades was examined with 166 psychology students to determine whether asking questions of the tutor online, and/or reading the questions and the given advice, influenced the grades on the report they were writing. A repeated-measures quasiexperimental design was used, with and without Blackboard available, to control for confounding variables. The grades on the assignment with Blackboard available were significantly higher than those on the previous assignment (when Blackboard was unavailable). Students who never used Blackboard had significantly lower grades on the assignment than the students who had used it. There was a positive relationship between the number of messages read and the grade achieved on the assignment. Students who read the most discussion board posts wrote significantly better reports (up by 4%) than they had previously. No improvement in grades occurred for the people who read no posts at all. Both the students who asked questions and those who just read the questions and answers (‘lurkers’) ended up with significantly better grades than they had done before Blackboard was introduced.