Leslie Burr
The Nature of Interaction Within an Online Computer Mediated Environment

Master of Philosophy , 2004

Supervisor: Dr. David Green.Co-Supervisor: Dr. Dirk H.R. Spennemann



The term interaction is now used so widely throughout the literature of information technology and educational technology, that the original meaning of the word has become obscured and confused. Rapid technological development has also meant that the term interaction has taken on new meanings. Formal definition remains elusive.

This study has been able to examine current use of the term in a cross disciplinary context and then focus in particular on the context within online educational technologies.

In order to bring a formal definition and understanding to the term, interaction has been codified firstly by identifying an evolution of context, secondly by codification and substitution of a corpus of data and finally by ratifying the context against expert opinion.

The resulting codification has been applied to an online discussion forum environment in order to determine the nature of the interaction within that environment. The user population of the environment has been described together with patterns of user behaviour and patterns of interaction .

System, content and learner interaction have been analysed and results show a heavy emphasis on system interaction at the expense of the preferred learner interaction . Finally a new model of forum design is suggested.  


Burr, L. and Dawson, S. (2003) Codification of Interaction Within a Large Scale Online Forum Environment. Educause 03 Conference Proceedings, University of Adelaide. Burr, L. and Morton-Allen, M. (2001) Inventing a Better Mouth Trap: The Development and Implementation of Forum Software at Charles Sturt University. Ausweb01. Conference Proceedings. [Online]. Available: http://ausweb.scu.edu.au/aw01/papers/refereed/burr/paper.html
Burr, L. and Smith, L. (2003) The Digital Divide: an Urban Miss? Ascilite Conference Proceedings, Adelaide, http://www.ascilite.org.au/conferences/adelaide03/program/conf_prog_index.htm
Burr, Leslie & Spennemann, Dirk H.R. (2004) Patterns of user behavior in University on-line forums. International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning vol. 1, n? 10, October 2004, pp. 11?18.

Online forums have become the backbone of most computer-supported distance education programs. While analyses have been carried out assessing the content of a limited number of such forums, there is little work done on how and when students make use of such facilities. There is much talk about 24/7, anytime, anywhere availability?but do students make use of this extended envelope, or is this just education rhetoric? This paper presents the outcomes of a large-scale study examining the usage of over 2000 forums for a period of four years.