Life history of a topic in an online discussion: a complex systems theory perspective on how one message attracts class members to create meaning collaboratively

Jane S. Vogler, Diane L. Schallert, Michelle Jordan, Kwangok Song, Anke J.Z. Sanders, Yueh hui Yan Te Chiang, Ji Eun Lee, Jeongbin Hannah Park, Li Tang Yu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Scopus citations

Abstract

Complex adaptive systems theory served as a framework for this qualitative study exploring the process of how meaning emerges from the collective interactions of individuals in a synchronous online discussion through their shared words about a topic. In an effort to bridge levels of analysis from the individual to the small group to the community, we analyzed how a group of students introduced, sustained, and eventually let go of one topic while participating in a classroom discussion that took place in a CSCL environment. Our purpose was to examine a single posted message’s influence not only through the responses it garnered, but also by how individuals reacted to it intellectually. Participants were eight students and their teacher in a graduate-level seminar. Data sources included the online discussion’s final transcript, screen-captured recordings of each participant’s computer screen, video recordings of participants’ actions, and observation notes. Our analyses revealed three key understandings: (a) the interdependencies of process and content are manifestations of the complex development of co-created understandings in computer-supported discussions, (b) private individual processes and particular meanings co-mingle in a social space to create publicly shared experiences, and (c) the importance of attending to the content was shown in the details of a topic’s incipience, its developing “mid-life,” and how factors conspired to its end. These findings help illustrate how co-created meaning-making experiences emerge in a system through interactions among individual agents, suggesting ways instructors may work to foster student learning in CSCL contexts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)173-194
Number of pages22
JournalInternational Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning
Volume12
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2017

Keywords

  • Complex adaptive systems
  • Computer-supported collaborative learning
  • Meaning making
  • Online discourse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Human-Computer Interaction

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