Electronic Discussions, Their Characteristics and Advantages

 Electronic Discussions, Their Characteristics and Advantages

E-discussions in e-learning depend in their essence on dialogue, where the teacher relies on students’ knowledge and previous experiences, through which previous knowledge is recalled, stimulates the effective mental activity of learners, develops their attention and confirms their thinking, and also helps in obtaining information in innovative ways, and provides more enjoyable experiences. Positive, through which learners’ skills can be developed and their level of confidence raised, as well as an opportunity to build knowledge, exchange views, enhance participation and improve cooperation.

Concept of electronic discussions:

Electronic discussions are one of the strategies that take place through interaction between students and each other and between students and teachers. Interaction is done electronically through discussion panels that take place through the web or through other electronic applications. These discussions take place either in a synchronous or asynchronous manner on a specific topic.

In this direction, Walid Al-Halafawi [2] emphasizes that the electronic discussion strategy is one of the interaction strategies that allow the exchange of ideas within a single context that is presented by the teacher and allows each individual to contribute his ideas and exchange them with others.

Nabil Azmy [3] defines asynchronous discussion in e-learning via the web as one of the interaction methods that allow the exchange of ideas through the teacher who plays the role of facilitator, and this method follows a democratic approach and allows each individual to contribute and exchange his ideas with others.

Naglaa Yassin and Fatima Fares [4] define electronic discussions as a dialogue and discussion between learners in which the clear positive role is shown for them to achieve the learning goals through guidance from the teacher, or with the learners’ self-reliance.

Characteristics of electronic discussions:

Asynchronous electronic discussions in e-learning via the web have many characteristics and distinguishing features, including the following [5]:

1. Participation: where the discussion takes place several times in the first week of the discussion and is estimated at about 3 times a week, then this is followed twice a week, that is, it follows the learning scaffolding method.

2. Reading messages and responding to them: messages are read and responded to immediately or within days, and that is thinking about replying in an interesting and attractive manner, according to the importance of the message.

3. The length of the message: A few sentences that focus on the necessary points should suffice from 3-5 sentences, but one sentence is enough.

4. Interaction: Interaction occurs when group members are eager to know each other’s thoughts on the topic of discussion, and when the group expects the answers received from each other, in addition to the interactive presentation of all the educational content in question.

Advantages of using electronic discussions:

Vinoth points out that there are several advantages of using electronic discussions, which are as follows [6]:

1. It adds a dimension of social interaction between students to the e-learning environment by expressing their will, ideas and skills.

2. Discussions can be participated at any time and from anywhere with access to the web, which mainly contributes to solving educational problems; Such as the specific learning time, which does not provide sufficient time for discussion and dialogue inside the classrooms, and thus helps learners to communicate with the teacher outside study times.

3. It expands and increases the learners’ experiences by presenting their different ideas and opinions on a particular topic.

4. Discussion participants are given time to think about the topics and problems for discussion before responding to them.

5. It gives students the opportunity to discuss and debate away from the classroom, in an atmosphere that allows them the freedom to communicate at any time and from anywhere in a synchronous or asynchronous manner; This allows the process of communication and interaction between students and teachers to continue.

As Walid Al-Halafawi [2] explained, the advantages of electronic discussions are as follows:

1. Mobility: It can be used and accessed by the learner through mobile devices such as mobile phones and tablets, thus supporting the concept of on-demand learning.

2. Communication and interaction: it provides the opportunity for synchronous and asynchronous interactions between learners and teachers.

3. Exchange and sharing: It allows learners to exchange files, documents, photos and videos, and share with each other in order to complete the educational assignments and tasks required of them.

4. Access and Availability: They are always available to access or produce at any time because they are not tied to a submission schedule, allowing learners seeking in-service training opportunities more flexibility in their use.

5. Flexibility: it can be used anytime and anywhere.

6. Low cost: The use of electronic discussions is not expensive at all, especially if they are used as a complementary environment for traditional education in the classroom, as they are mostly based on social programs that are available for free use via the web.

Theories that support electronic discussions:

The trend towards employing electronic discussions in education is supported by many learning theories, including [2]:

1- Cognitive learning theories:

Which assumes that the quality of the learning outcomes comes through the quality of the methods and practices by which the learner explains the information to his colleagues, and that the explanation of the different points of view comes through the interactions between the participants in the educational situation.

2- Social constructivist theory:

This trend towards employing electronic discussions in education also confirms the social constructivist theory, which indicates that learning is a process of activities often within the framework of the social context. They build their understanding through their activity and their interaction with the tools and applications of the teaching and learning environment. Accordingly, learning is an active and effective process in which the learner is in constant need of social interaction to clarify his understanding of learning experiences and access to meaning.

It also emphasizes that the learner is the focus of the learning processes, where the learner interacts with his peers to build his knowledge and experiences, and that designing the educational process according to the constructive approach makes the learner follow non-traditional educational strategies, the most important of which are electronic discussions strategies.

3- Communication theory:

It also advocated the communication theory presented by George and Stephen Downs (2009), where the communication theory adopts the idea of ​​networks and communities consisting of individuals who wish to exchange ideas on a common topic for learning and training via the web.

Here, the researchers emphasize that the communication theory as a theory depends in its concept on the availability of nodes and networks that the learner can interact with. Thus, this theory becomes a clear reflection of the nature of the rapid development of social communication technology through networks, and indicates that communication becomes the best learning theory suitable for application in electronic learning environments.