Do Rewards Shape Online Discussions?
This research attempted to test whether the granting of points for receiving the most votes as the “best post” would affect the quality of subsequent postings to online discussions. Five online discussions were held in a small graduate-level course in leadership theory, and postings were coded into Bloom’s taxonomy. Quality was defined as the percent of postings in the upper three levels (Analyze, Evaluate, and Create), but did not change. By asking students their reasons for choosing a posting as best, content analysis resulted in five reasons: “personal,” “new,” “stimulating,” “informative,” and “like me,” which are compared to the instructor’s views. When asked if the availability of points affected their performance, nine students felt the points did not affect their postings and two students tried harder because of them. While these results do not capture a link between receiving rewards and improved quality in online discussions, this exercise may capture the process whereby compliments for good postings may set the standard for how graduate students think and contribute online.