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Unpublished Paper
The Mean Reply Depth Algorithm: A correlational study of quantitative versus qualitative measures of threaded discourse
  • Sandie H Waters, Utah Valley University

In the world of online learning, instructors look for the keys that open the door to student learning, engagement, satisfaction, retention, and ability to transfer newly acquired knowledge to real-world situations. One of the most common communication tools in online courses is the threaded discussion. With a growing number of students participating in online education comes the potential for an increase in faculty load. The reviewed courses provided over 1500 threads for two sections of a graduate course at a Mountain Region University. The number of threads that are produced by a student accounts for countless hours of reading, processing, and feedback. Instructors find themselves giving more and more of their time to this seemingly endless process.

This paper begins with a review of the literature including the topics of asynchronous computer-mediated communication, criticisms and advantages of utilizing asynchronous tools in online courses, threaded discourse, and rubrics to evaluate online threaded discourse. We reviews the research correlating the quantitative (mean reply depth) and qualitative (mean qualitative measure) measures and reports on statistically significant results found at the conclusion of the research. The mean reply depth is a hierarchical measurement of a thread. The mean qualitative measure is a measurement based on the traditional way of analyzing threads with a rubric and numerical assignment. We also reviews the pros and cons of each approach used in the research. In conclusion, we discuss lessons learned and offer questions to begin the derivative work that needs to be done in order to make this research more universal.

  • mean reply depth,
  • threaded discourse,
  • threaded discussion,
  • qualitative,
  • quantitative,
  • online learning,
  • rubric,
  • asynchronous tools,
  • computer-mediated communication
Publication Date
Citation Information
Sandie H Waters. "The Mean Reply Depth Algorithm: A correlational study of quantitative versus qualitative measures of threaded discourse" (2008)
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