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Best Practices in Online Discussions


August 16th, 1p-2p

Watch the discussion online. (Link available by August 14). UPDATE: We are moving away from synchronous hangout type dialogs, to a podcast format. This will be the first episode of our new series.

Recorded Archive of Discussion.

Literature Review

Brewer, S., & Klein, J. D. (2006). Type of positive interdependence and affiliation motive in an asynchronous, collaborative learning environment. Educational Technology Research & Development, 54(4), 331-354. doi:10.1007/s11423-006-9603-3

Darabi, A., & Jin, L. (2013). Improving the quality of online discussion: The effects of strategies designed based on cognitive load theory principles. Distance Education, 21-36

Darabi, A., Liang, X., Suryavanshi, R., & Yurekli, H. (2013). Effectiveness of online discussion strategies: A meta-analysis. American Journal of Distance Education, 27(4), 228-241

Johnson, G. M. (2006). Online study groups: Reciprocal peer questioning versus mnemonic devices. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 35(1), 83-96.

Jung, I., Choi, S., Lim, C., & Leem, J. (2002). Effects of different types of interaction on learning achievement, satisfaction and participation in web-based instruction. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 39(2), 153-162. doi:10.1080 /1355800021012139

Ng, C. S. L., Cheung, W. S., & Hew, K. F. (2008). Solving ill-structured problems in asynchronous online discussions: Built-in scaffolds vs. No scaffolds. Interactive Learning Environments, 18(2), 115-134. doi:10.1080/10494820802337629

Sas, M., Bendixen, L. D., Crippen, K. J., & Saddler, S. (2017). Online collaborative misconception mapping strategy enhanced health science students’ discussion and knowledge of basic statistical concepts. Journal of College Science Teaching, 46(6), 88-99.

Topçu, A. (2008). ‘Intentional repetition’ and learning style: Increasing efficient and cohesive interaction in asynchronous online discussions. British Journal of Educational Technology, 39(5), 901-919


Effectiveness of Video Captions for Students

Closed captions or (same-language-subtitles) can be added to video resources to provide accommodations to the hearing impaired and keep us in compliance with the Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). Is it better to wait until a student asks for this accommodation or are there benefits to captioning that might assist other types of learners?


Captions have positive effects on groups other than the hearing impaired, including adults, non-native speakers, and online students.

Captions allow better access by allowing students to search within a video.

Inclusion of captions adheres to the principals of Universal Design.

The internet (and therefore online courses and MOOCs) constitute a place of public accomodation under the ADA.


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Gernsbacher, M. A. (2015). Video captions benefit everyone.  Policy insights from the behavioral and brain sciences,  2(1), 195-202. Captions improve comprehension, attention, memory. Inclusion benefits hearing adults. Reference list spans research across deaf education, SLA, adult literacy, reading acquisition, and now online education.

Grabinger, R. S., Aplin, C., & Ponnappa-Brenner, G. (2008). Supporting learners with cognitive impairments in online environments. TechTrends, 52(1), 63-69.
This is a literature review that talks about the benefits of universal design for all learners. Cognitive disabilities are rising and are often not disclosed by the student. Article has a nice table that provides some ideas about how instructor’s might make accommodations including using captioning on videos.

Kent, M., Ellis, K., Peaty, G., Latter, N. & Locke, K. (2017).  Mainstreaming Captions for Online Lectures in Higher Education in Australia:  Alternative approaches to engaging with video content. National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE), Curtin University: Perth. Literature review of captioning as well as findings of a survey. Non-disabled students benefitted in their review of educational materials. Engagement with recorded lectures increased with inclusion of captions. Ability to search within video using caption keywords was beneficial.  Captions benefit students with disabilities, older students, those with diverse learning styles, and those with noise or technology issues. Additionally, captioned video has the potential to significantly improve digital archival of files by indexing the full text, thereby facilitating searching and retrieving lecture content for all students.

“We therefore recommend the Australian university sector expand the use of captions from a purely assistive technology for people with disabilities to a mainstream instructional technology.”

Linder, K. (2016).  Student uses and perceptions of closed captions and transcripts: Results from a national study.  Corvallis, OR.  When made available, students use captions and transcripts 75% of the time.

Michael, P. H., & Webb, S. (2017). The Effects of Captions on EFL Learners’ Comprehension of English-Language Television Programs. CALICO Journal,  34(1), 20.

Evangeline Marlos Varonis, (2015) “From barriers to bridges: approaching accessibility in course design”,  The International Journal of Information and Learning Technology, Vol. 32 Issue: 3, pp.138-149,

Tisdell, C., & Loch, B. (2017). How useful are closed captions for learning mathematics via online video?.  International Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology,  48(2), 229-243.  Crowdsourced 45 students to manually caption instructor’s videos. Improved understanding of accent, explanations by respondents.

Tobin, T. J. (2014). INCREASE ONLINE STUDENT RETENTION WITH UNIVERSAL DESIGN FOR LEARNING.  Quarterly Review of Distance Education,  15(3), 13-24,48.  Retrieved from

Van der Zee, T., Admiraal, W., Paas, F., Saab, N., & Giesbers, B. (2017). Effects of subtitles, complexity, and language proficiency on learning from online education videos.  Journal of Media Psychology.

further resources

Caption your course videos to benefit everyone

Shorter article from the Dr. Katie Linder, author of the 2016 survey study on caption use.



Assessing Video Content

What makes effective instructional videos? Which elements contribute to successful learning objectives and retained knowledge?

Takeaways from the Research:
  • High production values may not increase learning
  • Length of video greatly affects attention, aka “The Six Minute Rule.”
  • Inclusion of an instructor’s visage makes videos more engaging.
  • Nearly anything is more engaging than a Powerpoint with voiceover.
  • Prerecorded lectures can’t be improved by chunking.
  • Incorporating interactive questions embedded in video may improve student’s performance as well as satisfy student’s preference.
  • Use an inverted pyramid model to address important content first and ancillary content later.


Bowles-Terry, M., Hensley, M. K., & Hinchliffe, L. J. (2010). Best practices for online video tutorials in academic libraries: A study of student preferences and understanding. Communications in Information Literacy, 4(1), 17-28. Purely instructional videos of  only three minutes are still viewed as too long by some students.

Choi, H. J., & Johnson, S. D. (2005). The effect of context-based video instruction on learning and motivation in online courses. The American Journal of Distance Education, 19(4), 215-227. Video materials are easier to attend to as well as more motivating.

Hibbert, M. C. (2014). What Makes an Online Instructional Video Compelling?. Educause Review Online. Students expected a sophisticated course to include video; Instructor personality is important; Average video viewing length only 4 minutes.

Hansch, A., Hillers, L., McConachie, K., Newman, C., Schildhauer, T., & Schmidt, P. (2015). Video and online learning: Critical reflections and findings from the field.  High production values may not increase learning.

Guo, P. J., Kim, J., & Rubin, R. (2014). How video production affects student engagement: An empirical study of mooc videos. In Proceedings of the first ACM conference on learning@ scale conference (pp. 41-50). Segment videos into chunks shorter than six minutes.

Lagerstrom, L., Johanes, P., & Ponsukcharoen, M. U. (2015). The myth of the six minute rule: Student engagement with online videos. Age, 26, 1. Different cohorts and audiences can lead to different viewing patterns.

Vural, O. F. (2013). The Impact of a Question-Embedded Video-Based Learning Tool on E-Learning. Educational Sciences: Theory and Practice, 13(2), 1315-1323.  Designing learning activities as part of video viewing may lead to students being more successful in fulfilling learning outcomes.

Stealth Assessment



  • Shute, V., Ventura, M., & FengFeng Ke. (2014). The power of play: The effects of portal 2 and lumosity on cognitive and noncognitive skills. Computers & Education, 80.

  • Wang, L., Shute, V., & Moore, G. R. (2015). Lessons learned and best practices of stealth assessment. International Journal of Gaming and Computer-Mediated Simulations, 7(4), 66-87.

  • Shute, V. J., Wang, L., Greiff, S., Zhao, W., & Moore, G. (2016). Measuring problem solving skills via stealth assessment in an engaging video game. Computers in Human Behavior, 63, 106-117. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2016.05.047

  • Shute, V. J. (2011). Stealth assessment in computer-based games to support learning. Computer Games and Instruction, 55(2), 503-524.



Humor as Effective Practice in the Classroom



  • Anderson, D. G. (2011). Taking the “distance’ out of distance education: A humorous approach to online learning. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 7(1).
  • Wanzer, M. B., Frymier, A. B., Irwin, F., & Irwin, J. (2010). An explanation of the relationship between instructor humor and student learning: Instructional humor processing theory. , 59(1), 1-18. doi:10.1080/0363452090336723
  • Shatz, M. A., & Coil, S. R. (2008). Regional campus teaching ain’t a joke but humor can make it more effective. Association for University Regional Campuses of Ohio, 14(Spring 2008), 105-118