Assignment 1: Mystery Assignment 5%

The Mystery assignment is a written thought-piece, done in class on a topic assigned by the professor and centrally related to the course.  Students will be given 45 minutes to write their views based on class discussions and readings to date; the thought-piece is then emailed to the professor.

There is no preparation required for this activity, except that the student has remained current with the class activities to date.  The Mystery Assignment does not have a set date and depends on the discretion of the professor.


Assignment 2: Participating in an Online Seminar (Discussant)

A few suggestions:

1. Pls. participate regularly, frequently, and substantively.  Discussants can obtain up to 10% of their final grade per week depending upon the frequency and quality of their input.  Do not lose significant marks. Be active by doing the readings and engaging in the discussion and Discussion Questions 2-3 times Be advised.

2. Moderators and Discussants:  Pls. avoid such terms as “I feel” or “I think” unless your comment is supported by the readings or other authoritative source.  The online seminars are intended to develop opinions that are “informed”, i.e.,  supported by evidence.

3. Moderators: Pls. ensure that your DQs promote informed opinions or comments: post questions that are based on evidence and not subjective thoughts or feelings. Provide readings that offer evidence relevant to your DQs.

4. Moderators:  Pls. do send your draft DQs to me for feedback. I am available to assist you in this process.

Assignment 3: Moderating an Online Seminar 30%

Moderating an online seminar is an assignment conducted over the course of one week and is comprised of 3 components:

  1. Presentation of seminar topic and Discussion Questions (10%)
  2. Facilitation of online seminar, from IGàIOàIC (10%)
  3.    Online Discourse Analysis (10%)

3. ONLINE DISCOURSE ANALYSIS. The text-based nature of online seminars enables storage or archiving of the text, verbatim, whereby the discussion can be analyzed. This is the basis of online discourse analysis. The transcript provides a verbatim copy of the discourse that can then be subject to analysis of Collaborative Learning and Knowledge Building that occurred, over time, by various participants, roles, and processes. Quantitative data and qualitative data are available from the online transcripts, and can provide unique perspectives on the nature of the discourse. Quantitative data are often most easily obtained and analyzed as system-generated usage statistics, which are available on most forum software.

Qualitative data are easily available as the transcripts of the discourse.   Although few analytical software tools exist as yet to study online discourse, we do have Analytical Frameworks and Processes (Harasim, 2011) whereby we can analyze the communication and collaboration patterns and whether, how, and why these change over time.

Discourse Analysis of Collaborative Learning and Knowledge Building

Both quantity and quality of messages in an online course or community offer important indicators of knowledge building and each should be studied and be used to deepen understanding of the nature of engagement and degree of success. Success here is understood as the continuity of activity, advance or progress of the activity, completion, and user satisfaction. The quantity of messaging should not be taken as a sole indication of success, but nor should it be ignored. Levels of participation (such as number of messages per day, per person, per topic, size of a message and other quantitative measures) are an obvious and important indicator of the pulse of an online community. It is important in assessing the distribution of communication and level of activity, engagement, democratic participation and verbalization in a group.


1. Select the transcript of discourse to be analyzed

2. Select the unit of analysis: typically, for initial analysis the unit is a MESSAGE;

3. Code each message (and encourage/require secondary coders)

4. Each message in a discussion forum can be analyzed and coded according to key indicators, whether the message is primarily



i. IG

ii. IO

iii. IC

iv. (optional finer codings can be IG-IO, IO-IC, other, etc.)


i. MIG

ii. MIO

iii. MIC


e. Other (Instructor comment, if a student-led seminar), etc.?????

5. Create a work space in Excel

a. Spreadsheet that numbers each message

b. Spreadsheet columns categorize message by SIMPO (see 4 above)

c. Spreadsheet can also include categories of message gender, time sent , role, content

d. Chart absolutes: i.e., total # of messages, total # of IG messages, total # of IO messages, total # of IC messages, and total #of messages by discussants and by moderators, total # of messages by day, etc.

6. Very Important: Analyze and Chart CHANGE OVER TIME, for example:

a. Self-intros

b. IG—IO

c. IO—IC

d. Level of participation

Level of participation by gender or by some other factor

a) Qualitative Content Analysis:

In this section, describe your setting and way that it was structured or designed, and the purpose (i.e., online seminar, online community).   What were the questions that posed by the moderator? Were they answered? How well? Were some questions unanswered? Were new questions posed? answered? new issues or perspectives identified?

What can be learned from this process? What should be done the same again?  What would a moderator not do or do differently.

b) Quantitative Content Analysis:

In online environments, content analysis is especially appropriate and insightful into the nature of the communication patterns and interactions.  Since there is an automatically-generated transcript of the interactions, these data can be studied and analyzed to gain insight into the usage or communication patterns in that seminar.


Examine the total volume of messages per online week; then analyze,  looking for patterns [i.e., daily volume, or according to time of day—morning, afternoon, night; individual usage patterns; patterns of different kinds of participants (i.e., instructor, TA, moderators, discussants, males vs. females); response patterns in relation to the 3 questions, or other topic; types of discourse processes (questions vs answers; agreement vs disagreement; social vs topical, responses vs new material or perspectives, etc.].


Examine the message interactions among participants.  For example, what were the interactions among moderators? Among discussants? Between moderators and discussants? types of discourse processes (questions vs answers; agreement vs disagreement; social vs topical, responses vs new ideas, material or perspectives, etc.]. How equitable was the distribution of communication?  Did some dominate the discussion? Or did most of the discussants participate more or less to the same level or degree?

Present your analysis of the usage patterns and interactions both in graphical form and with attendant discussion and explanation.

Example of the use of an Excel Worksheet

Figure 1 shows the rise of the Idea generating (IG) and the Idea organizing (IO) phases, culminating on the seventh day of the whole seminar. Intellectual convergence (IC) emerged on the seventh day when discussants came to a conclusion on the topic.


Assignment 4:  Final Paper

The final paper is an analysis and summation of the key subject matter of the course:

a)    a paper analyzing issues related to the Role of Social Media in a Knowledge Society; OR

b)    a paper analyzing issues related to the use of Social Media  for knowledge building and intellectual convergence.

The paper should be:

  • approx. 12-15 pages in length, 12 font Arial, double spaced;
  • Title page, TOC, and appendices are not counted as part of these main pages;
  • Use APA style guidelines
  • Do NOT  plagiarize in any way; Ensure that you are familiar with what constitutes plagiarism and avoid it.  Adhere to SFU Policies on Plagiarism.

What constitutes an A+ paper?

There are many sites online that address the topic of what is a good final paper.  For example:

The sites gives clear concise information such as:

“The purpose of an outline is to help you think through your topic carefully and organize it logically before you start writing. A good outline is the most important step in writing a good paper. Check your outline to make sure that the points covered flow logically from one to the other. Include in your outline an INTRODUCTION, a BODY, and a CONCLUSION.  Make the first outline tentative.

INTRODUCTION – State your thesis and the purpose of your research paper clearly. What is the chief reason you are writing the paper? State also how you plan to approach your topic. Is this a factual report, a book review, a comparison, or an analysis of a problem? Explain briefly the major points you plan to cover in your paper and why readers should be interested in your topic.

BODY – This is where you present your arguments to support your thesis statement. Remember the Rule of 3, i.e. find 3 supporting arguments for each position you take. Begin with a strong argument, then use a stronger one, and end with the strongest argument for your final point.

CONCLUSION – Restate or reword your thesis. Summarize your arguments. Explain why you have come to this particular conclusion.”

Possible Topics:

  1. Investigating the potential of web-based academic forums and online learning forums;
  2. Analyzing the role of the successful moderator in online student-led seminars;
  3. Analyzing the role of the successful discussant in online student-led seminars;
  4. Key issues affecting students in student-led online seminars;
  5. What makes a successful online student-led seminar;
  6. Design Options in online student-led seminars;
  7. Pros/Cons of the GEN site and Suggestions for Improvement;
  8. Discourse analysis of a semester-long series of online seminars has shown….
  9. Social Media in a Knowledge Society: New opportunities? New challenges?
  10. Pros/cons on online student-led seminars for Knowledge Building.

Readings Week 1 & 2



New York: Routledge Press, 2011




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