This study was designed to investigate the viability of using hashtagged keywords to increase levels of dialogue in online discussions. With a focus on social annotation as a form of manually generated metadata, the design was also intended to function as a form of data information literacy intervention at the post-secondary level. A literature review was conducted at the intersection of three related research areas relevant to post-secondary education, exploring the potential for dialogic pedagogy, online discussions and social annotation. Using the concept of addressivity as initially proposed by Yakubinsky and later developed by Bakhtin, a design was developed to utilize hashtagged keywords in the online discussion tool available in Canvas, a popular learning management software system. Undergraduate students enrolled in a course in Communication took part in the study using hashtagged keywords as part of their work in online discussions that explored course related themes and readings. Data from 25 students were collected to evaluate the effects of the design intervention on the dialogicality of the online discussions. A comprehensive content analysis protocol was adapted from the Cam-UNAM Scheme for Educational Dialogue Analysis (SEDA). Changes were made to the original coding scheme specific to the needs and requirements of a study focussed on the analysis of dialogue in asynchronous online discussions. Evidence is provided suggesting that there is a viable role for social annotation in the form of hashtagged keywords in online discussions to promote and enhance levels of dialogue in post-secondary learning environments. In particular, a relationship between the depth of reply of posts and levels of dialogue as assessed by the coding scheme employed in the study suggest a promising area of future work. Implications for research and practice exploring the concept of addressivity in online discussions in relation to hashtagged keywords are discussed.
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Thesis advisor: O'Neill, Kevin
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