Open, online, help forums: An emergent help-seeking resource

Project: Research project

Project Details


Open, online, help forums: An emergent help-seeking resource Open, online, help forums: An emergent help-seeking resource Today's students are using the Internet as a resource for completing their assignments through participation in open, online help forums. These popular forums, covering a wide variety of subject areas, are found on websites that are accessible to the general public and allow students everywhere to communicate anonymously and asynchronously with volunteers around the world who have the time, willingness, and experience to help them. Students post queries (usually problem-specific questions from assignments) that can be viewed by and responded to by other forum members. The queries and associated responses (threads) support many-to-one interactions between students and volunteer tutors, as well as inter-tutor discourse, and are archived as artifacts of member participation. Students are currently using these forums to seek help on completing course assignments and to prepare for examinations in core subject areas, with physics and mathematics as leading forum arenas. At the same time, volunteers are using these forums to provide help to students. In short, these forums provide convenient, accessible, affordable help to thousands of students, while, at the same time, they transform help-seeking and help-giving from a private, one-on-one activity into a public, communal endeavor that spans geopolitical boundaries. Despite the role that open, online forums are playing in students' learning experience and tutors' practice, particularly in STEM disciplines, these forums have remained largely outside the radar of education research. A systematic investigation of these forums will shape our understanding of the nature of helpseeking and help-giving in this emergent learning environment and pave the way for developing new modes of student-centered assistance that are consonant with principles of learning and instruction. This project will address a major research question associated with open, online forum participation and usage: What is the nature of the help that different forums are providing? Many public online forums have emerged in response to the demand for accessible, affordable help outside of the classroom and can range in their educational value from cheat sites to locations where meaningful discussions take place. In this project, we propose to examine activity on two different help forums and look at the relationship between differences in forum features and the nature of help that is sought and that is provided.
Effective start/end date5/1/1012/31/11


  • Spencer Foundation: $39,975.00


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