Meaningful Learning from Sustained Online Communication

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Most students nowadays prefer online learning to physical classrooms due to particular reasons: time, convenience, and affordability. Apart from young students, adults also embrace online classes to further their studies and learn new skills that enable fair competition in the job market. As much as adult students are trying to embrace online learning, some are unfamiliar with online services or feel that online learning does not provide quality education like physical learning. This paper provides a brief analysis of different approaches to assessing the effectiveness of online learning through discussion boards encouraging adults to embrace learning in a dynamic education system.


Online learning is bringing a revolutionary and transformative change in the education sector as it provides different ways of learning and instructing students to ensure students gain relevant and competitive knowledge. Most adult learners are embracing online learning through discussion boards and virtual classrooms since learning online offers convenience, easy access, affordability, and quality education and cater to different learning pedagogies. Online learning focusing on adult students needs to provide appropriate programs that improve the students learning outcomes to meet their needs for adult education. It is, therefore, crucial to assess online learning to determine its effectiveness in meeting quality and objective education, to evaluate the student’s and teachers’ interaction, workload and availability of learning resources and to determine whether students studying online have the same performance score as those who engage in physical learning with their teachers. Hence, this paper seeks to review and analyze Albadri and Abdallah’s article on cognitive analysis, which provides approaches of assessing online adulting learning using discussion boards to identify the effectiveness, limits, and ineffectiveness of the assessment strategies in comparison to the interaction analytic model.

Research Problem

Significantly few studies have addressed practical approaches to assessing the effectiveness of online learning through discussion boards. Among the studies that exist, some theories argue that an effective online program must consider the existing characteristics of teaching and learning, which challenge students to think critically, be willing to study and have excellent grades on tests and assignments. Although traditional teaching and learning methods may contribute to effective assessments, online assessments require more dynamic assessment methods that match innovation, competencies, and expectations. Therefore, require modification of teaching methods to cater to the difference in students’ demographics.

Online learning requires a change in human interaction since most students and learners do not see face-to-face learning; therefore, the assessment method should consider communication and social interactions. Apart from effective learning, some education scholars argue that online education lacks credibility and quality compared to face-to-face learning. This research aims to identify approaches for assessing online discussion boards for adult education and proving their effectiveness in providing learners with the ability to think critically and provide quality education.

Theoretical Framework

This section explores various methods to consider when assessing the effectiveness of online learning through discussion boards using the interaction analysis model, which considers the students’ interaction with each other, the instructor and the discussion content. In recent years, institutions and learning programs have emphasized teachers’ resources and tools to deliver the course content. With globalization and the evolution in many social and economic sectors, the education sector is not an exception. Where the education system now focuses more on how students interact with the instructor, each other and the course content. Marciniak (2018)) recommends that the best learning methods involve the learner’s interaction and collaboration with each other, the course instructor, how well a learner can process and present thoughts and the consistency of a learner in contributing ideas and thoughts during discussion board sessions.

Aside from focusing on learners, other factors that need consideration when assessing the effectiveness of online discussions include a learner’s readiness to study, the institution’s infrastructure, the overall course content, individual commitment, instructors’ preparedness, the course designs which need special delivery and the quality of the system and programs used for learning. Online assessment approaches must consider all these factors when developing strategies for online learning assessments.

An effective online program must establish the availability of instructors to access online services while considering the number of times that students need to hold discussion forums to produce the best outcomes. Therefore, instructors must outline their learning schedules at the beginning of every course term, which should tally with the course content. Additionally, instructors need to ensure availability in student consultations by providing the available times for consultation and online communication methods such as email, phone calls or text messages (Marciniak, 2018). By providing extra hours for consulting and individual interactions, students can do follow-up consultations and private tutoring, particularly the slow learners. Extra learning is also convenient for learners who have limited time as they can easily access an instructor when they are free.

A simple approach to encouraging learners’ and teachers’ interaction is by creating a platform or forum where learners and teachers post their brief biographies and comment on each other’s posts during board discussions, promoting familiarity. Knowing each other is important in creating first impressions, which contribute to future interactions while learning. Once learners become familiar with at the beginning of the course, it also becomes easier to interact and share thoughts and ideas during discussion sessions. Therefore, familiarity is an essential factor to consider when assessing the effectiveness of online discussion boards for adult learners.

Another factor to consider while assessing the performance of online learning is the program’s reliability to provide an online community that supports learners and instructors openly and freely. The program should have clear guidelines on the interactions between students, students and the faculty, and students’ interaction with course materials and resources. For example, instructors can provide offline videos on lectures, daily and weekly reminders of assignments and extra reading, announcements on actual events and provision of grade feedback. By posting students’ feedback and commenting on areas that need addressing, adult learners can identify the lacking areas and strive to improve for better outcomes. The assessment approach will ensure that the program provides sufficient instructional material to enhance online learning and provide quality education by considering extra support and learning materials.

Another aspect that needs assessment for effective online learning is time management in proposing a practical assessment approach. Time is essential in determining the students’ learning hours versus the course content, which learners should complete daily and termly. Assessing the time learners spend learning through discussion boards can be done by interviewing new learners. The new learner can provide a schedule of time allocations for discussions daily and weekly, which matches the workload and course content. Analyzing time in contrast to course content enable assessors to determine whether learners get quality education to become critical thinkers or the discussions only consume enough time to brush through a topic in the course outline.

Additionally, time determines the frequency of communication between adult learners with each other and their instructors. When students get enough time to interact, they exchange more ideas and valuable information leading to critical thinking and quality education in the discussion boards. Time also determines the learners’ expectations at the end of every discussion session. Since learning requires insight, observation, and interaction to raise the best ideas, online discussion sessions require sufficient time to accomplish the learners’ expectations, which might be time-consuming.

Sharing feedback is also crucial in evaluating the learner’s understanding during online board discussions. Early evaluations of students’ feedback during discussion forums and posts is another factor to focus on during online learning assessments. When learners get quick feedback, they can reflect and adjust by thinking critically to ensure positive outcomes (Marciniak, 2018). Instructors should be flexible in providing early feedback and course modifications to suit each learner’s understanding and enhance critical thinking. Instructors can modify learning content by posting straightforward questions on how learners cope with the current course work and inviting suggestions on learning adjustments that can benefit all adult learners.

Literature Review

Abdalla and Albadri used cognitive analysis in assessing the effectiveness of online discussion boards as a method of adult learning. The analysis components in Abdallah’s article include insight, observation, learning from others and deliberations. According to the report, online discussion boards provide quality education through observation. Through observing illustrations, comments and each other’s suggestions, students get a picture of the concepts and form ideas while sharing from different regions. Zaporozhko (2020) suggests that learning through observation helps students memorize concepts since illustrations or images are more vivid to recall. Observing each other’s comments and suggestions in discussion forums creates familiarity and valuable knowledge exchange, enhancing social interaction and critical thinking.

Another approach for cognitive analysis is ‘gaining insight, where the article suggests that insight helps acquire knowledge on the discussion topics more than observing illustrations to gain understanding. While observation gives a clear picture, gaining insight provides more profound meaning to the discussion topic because it presents statements for thought promoting critical thinking. In the analysis model, learners get insight through the instructor’s feedback and topic evaluation, encouraging critical reflection on which areas need adjustments and the most understood areas. Through insight, learners can interact and share thoughts by commenting on each other’s posts. Apart from gaining a deep understanding, insight also helps learners interact as a group and on personal levels in particular areas of interest.

Deliberation allows participants to think critically and decide on an inclusive answer or suggestion to a given topic. Through deliberation during student interactions, all participants gain a platform to argue and reason on the given subject where the justifiable argument wins. According to the article, Abdalla and Abdikadir suggest that deliberation is more valuable hand open discussion and insight during online learning. Zaporozhko (2020) agrees with Abdallah’s argument, where they describe deliberation as an argument involving equal participation and mutual respect in providing sound ideas from opposing views. Also, deliberation helps in critical thinking and decision-making when discussing challenging topics and promoting diversity through various presentations of ideas. While encouraging more interactions between students and their instructors, it is crucial to consider the cognitive component of deliberation, which embraces critical discussions while upholding the moral values between learners.

Lastly, the article suggests that learning from each other is crucial in creating a friendly online environment for effective online learning. The interaction analysis model also suggests that learning from each other is essential in online discussion boards since learners from different demographics create diverse ideas and thoughts. Students learn from each other by sharing ideas in open forums, creating and participating in activities that promote diverse ideas and learning from instructors’ feedback on particular topics. Iswantir & Sesmiarni (2021) argue that learning from each other through the instructor’s evaluation and comments provides more insight into the discussion topic.


The study was conducted using a qualitative research design because qualitative data provide more insight into the topic under investigation. The research method was also chosen because of its subjectivity in collecting data through individual perceptions. Data was collected by providing questionnaires and online interviews of adult students using discussion board posts to learn. The questionnaire consisted of questions regarding students’ satisfaction with online discussion boards as teaching programs and questions and to what degree the online program meets the goals and objectives of providing quality education. The questions consisted of closed answers and ‘yes or ‘no in describing degrees. Online interviews required the learners to answer five questions through an online discussion board, and the results were noted down for analysis.

The sample population consisted of fifty respondents from ten different courses attending online programs. All participants engaged in the research voluntarily and answered all questions willingly. Five areas of online learning were explored to determine the online assessment approaches, which include the student’s interaction with each other and the instructor during board discussion, time consumed on the online program per week, the overall workload during the course and course recommendations to other learners.

Sampling and Analysis

Respondents were selected using random sampling, convenience a purposive sample. Random selection means respondents were chosen without considering a specific pattern or population. Purposive sampling is where the respondent is selected because of their ability to provide the most appropriate answers regarding the research topic, while convenience sampling is done by picking readily available respondents to answer the questions. Data analysis was done by conducting a frequency run in all variables and obtaining the most frequent answers as the concluding report.


From the survey, forty-eight out of fifty respondents found that instructor-student interaction promotes critical thinking are were satisfied with their instructor-student interaction at 97%. Regarding learning from each other, all respondents agreed that it is an essential factor in online discussion boards as different people think differently and propose arguments and suggestions that promote critical thinking. Also, all respondents suggested that allocating more time in online discussions promotes valuable interaction and exchange of ideas leading to critical thinking. Lastly, forty-seven respondents recommend online discussion boards as adult learning programs as they save time, offer learning convenience and provide learning instructions according to their age and experience.


The research had few respondents representing the larger population of online learners who could contribute more diverse information. Also, the close-ended questionaries limited additional information since all questions had choices to pick from. Since all respondents answered the questions subjectively and individually, there is a possibility for biased information when answering questions concerning the efficiency of the online program. The purposive selection of respondents could also lead to information biases since their choice is predetermined.

Conclusion and Recommendations

It is essential for online teaching programs focusing on adult education to provide learners with the best learning practices for online education to gain quality education. In this article, all methods used to analyze an effective discussion post give the best assessment approaches through observation. Insight and deliberation learning from each other and democratic review allow students to think critically and make the best decisions applicable to real-life situations. In conclusion, Albadri claims that the cognitive analysis model requires further development for more efficiency in performance; therefore, it is advisable to do further consultation before using the methods for online assessment.


Iswantir, M., & Sesmiarni, Z. (2021). The evaluation of online learning in the micro-teaching course in tarbiyah and teacher training faculty IAIN Bukit Tinggi. Journal of Physics: Conference Series, 1779(1).

Marciniak, R. (2018). Quality assurance for online higher education programs: Design and validation of an integrative assessment model applicable to Spanish universities. International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 19(2).

Zaporozhko, V., Shardakov, V., & Parfenov, D. (2020). Fuzzy model for evaluating the results of online learning. IOP Conference Series. Materials Science and Engineering, 734(1). Web.

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ChalkyPapers. "Meaningful Learning from Sustained Online Communication." January 22, 2023.