7.3.5 Activity logs and content analysis

Activity and content analysis

You can use participation in asynchronous communication and publishing tools (blogs, discussion boards, Google Sites) and synchronous tools (text-based chat boxes or Collaborate recordings). Chat logs may well need to be enabled and saved at the end of the session to ensure that the record is retained for review.

By analysing the contributions made by participants to a discussion or collaborative activity, we can build up a picture of activity online, touching on levels and categories of participation. This may highlight the range of learning that is taking place on line, from evidence gathering to critical reflection on data output.

Case study

Returning again to this Biology module, the table displays the results of a content analysis of blog posts.

Screenshot showing numerical categorisation of each group's contributions to a blog

The blog was used by groups to collate research in preparation for the drafting of their wiki reports. The categories of contributions in the table were inductively derived from the blog posts for each group through an initial analysis of the content of the postings. This led to the definition of a series of categories of communication, ranging from organisation and management of research tasks to examples of deeper learning – providing feedback on the report. The analysis helped the instructor to grasp the nature of the group dynamics – how students worked and the roles that they had adopted in the preparation of their reports.

E-Learning Walkthrough

Evolutionary Ecology

Example of analysis of student contribution to a collaborative task
Dr Peter Mayhew, Biology
View Evolutionary Ecology Case Study [PDF]

Case study

This screenshot shows another example of content analysis- this time taken from a postgraduate Law module.

Screenshot with different post types categorised with examples from student contributions

This analysis was based on blog postings for a problem based learning activity, but employed an external framework – Fox and MacKeogh’s (2003) 16 categories of cognitive thinking to interpret student contributions – using a blog post as a unit of analysis. This framework was chosen as it mapped closely to the stated objectives for the group task that students were asked to perform in addressing a range of evidence collection and cognitive skills -again helpful in tracking the development of the learning and its relationship to the targeted outcomes for this activity.


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