A comparison of undergraduate student experiences of assessed versus non-assessed participation in online asynchronous discussion groups

Lessons from a cross disciplinary study in health and sociology


  • Tracy Douglas
  • Carey Mather
  • Sandra Murray
  • Louise Earwaker
  • Allison James
  • Jane Pittaway
  • Brady Robards
  • Susan Salter




assessment, discussion boards, asynchronous, student, engagement, higher education


This paper discusses a pilot study investigating perceptions from undergraduate students enrolled in units in which asynchronous online discussion boards were utilised formatively or linked to summative assessment. Of the influences that determine level of student engagement in online discussions, one key factor is whether discussions are assessed. Whilst assessing student discussions does motivate participation, this approach is not always valued by students as they are critical of the value of asynchronous discussion boards to their learning. The type of postings can be an influencing factor in student engagement, with effective facilitation, clear purpose and group participation perceived to be important. Students also viewed discussion boards as a platform in which peer engagement and information sharing occurred. Students who were enrolled in a unit in which discussion postings were assessed demonstrated emerging critical thinking skills. Students strongly indicated discussion boards must be fit-for-purpose and integrated into the curriculum regardless of whether they are assessed or not.