Asynchronous online discussion and student engagement
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Online coursework has become increasingly popular among institutions of higher education over the last twenty years. As of 2011, 6.7 million students were taking at least one course online--32% of all students enrolled in degree-granting post-secondary institutions (Allen and Seaman 2013). Additionally, over 70% of academic officers recognize online learning as a part of the long-term strategies of those institutions. With online enrollment continuing to grow, it is vital that we understand how students engage course content and interact with each other in the online classroom. This report examines asynchronous online discussion in an effort to increase this understanding. I first examine how student engagement is defined, measured, and related to learning. I then review relevant literature to evaluate ways in which asynchronous online discussion promotes and challenges engagement with course material. Finally, I explore how students' online discussions can be improved.