Mixed-Approach Social Comparison for Improving Online Discussions’ Efficacy: Insights from Filed Experiments

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Technology and Media

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Effective online discussions contain substantive posts and are highly interactive. Interactivity may be measured by quantity, distribution, and quality of the comments exchanged. Quality of comments can be measured by their level of integrative complexity, i.e., the extent to which they have examined different dimensions of the topic. This manuscript reports results of field experiments in twelve courses (24 online discussions). Quantity and quality of comments were examined as dependent variables. Half of the online discussions involved use of a mixed-approach social comparison. The approach was mixed because firstly students had access to scores of both lower and higher performing peers (upward and downward social comparisons); and secondly students had access not only to their peers’ scores but also to the goal-specific informational evaluation associated thereto, i.e., notes on why a score was earned. The mixed approach was effective in advancing quality and decentralizing commenting networks.


This article was published in Is In Education, Is Curriculum, Education and Teaching Cases (SIGED) (2017)