Discussion forum versus learning blogs: a comparison of student understanding, student interaction, and social presence



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Texas Tech University


Undeniably, online learning is growing. The information age with its technological developments has strongly affected higher education. Although a review of the literature revealed multiple studies concerning interaction in online courses and discussion forums, emerging technologies such as blogs have come on the scene in the past several years. There was a need to explore how this newer communication option-use in education can affect student performance. The purpose of this study was to compare two types of online communication tools, learning blogs and discussion forums, and two types of question prompts, higher-level and lower-level thinking, in terms of student understanding of course material, quality of student interaction, and social presence in a graduate-level online education course at a mid-sized Texas university.

The results of the examination of student blog and discussion forum grades showed that students had significantly higher grades on their blog postings than their discussion forum postings. Students also had higher grades when they responded to higher-level questions than lower-level questions. However, there was no significant difference found between student interaction levels for blogs or discussion forums, nor were there significant differences in student interaction levels for higher-level questions than for lower-level questions. The results of the social presence survey revealed that there was a significantly LOWER social presence score for blog use than for discussion forum use. It was anticipated that social presence scores would be higher for blog use, but results showed that the opposite occurred.