In the context of our ARC project MOOCresearch2.0: A mixed-method and multidisciplinary approach to socio-cognitive conflicts in online educational platforms, we have the pleasure to welcome Dr. Mario Cal Varela and Dr. Francisco Javier Fernández Polo to present their work on online forums in higher education and the SUNCODAC corpus.

The Santiago UNiversity Corpus ODiscussions in Academic Contexts (SUNCODAC) is a freely-accessible corpus composed of asynchronous online forum discussions held through the Moodle learning platform. It contains highly focused and goal-oriented online interactions where higher education students were prompted to collaborate offering critical feedback.

In their talk, Dr. Varela and Dr. Fernández Polo will briefly describe the context of the discussions and present some highlights of the corpus compilation and annotation process. They will also describe current holdings and present the corpus interface, briefly illustrating major types of searches, available search filters and output formats.

Several studies have been conducted so far on the SUNCODAC data addressing questions such as:

  1. What kind of language and content are typically found in these forums?
  2. How do students strategically use the affordances of the Moodle forum tool to further their own and the group’s aims?
  3. What strategies do students have recourse to to promote interpersonal relationships with peers, which are conducive to the fruitful exchange of ideas?
  4. What do the data tell us about the existence of the different expectations and roles of individual students in these forums and their eventual contribution to the success of the activity?
  5. What do the data reveal about the existence of characteristic participation styles in specific groups of students?

Some of these questions have been addressed in a series of exploratory studies; for example:

  • Fernández Polo, F., & Cal Varela, M. (2018). A structural analysis of student online forum discussions. In Languages at the crossroads: training, accreditation and context of use (pp. 189-200). Universidad de Jaén. (Link)
  • Cal Varela, M., & Fernández-Polo, F. (2021). SUNCODAC. A Corpus of Students’ Forum Discussions in Higher Education. In of the 8th Conference on Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC) and Social Media Corpora (CMC-Corpora 2021) (p. 22). (Link)
  • Fernández Polo, F., & Cal Varela, M. (2021). Referring to other participants in asynchronous online discussions: Citation patterns in a higher education context. In of the 8th Conference on Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC) and Social Media Corpora (CMC-Corpora 2021) (p. 35). (Link)

This research deals with topics like the characteristic move structure of the genre, the use of face-saving, mitigation strategies, the components and language of closings and participants’ mutual citation practices. Findings provide interesting insights into key aspects of these exchanges like their characteristic language and paralinguistic features, the existence of gender and culture-specific participation styles, the high importance attached by participants to the preservation of social harmony, the potential and limitations of AODs as a learning tool, the process of collective construction and development of online generic norms, among others.

This event is organised by the members of the ARC project with the support of:

  • The Interdisciplinary Research Group in Socialisation, Education, and Training (GIRSEF),  
  • The Louvain Research Institute in Management and Organizations (LOURIM) and,
  • The Institut for Language and Communication (ILC).

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Published on April 04, 2022