Student outcomes associated with use of asynchronous online discussion forums in gross anatomy teaching Academic Article uri icon


  • Asynchronous online discussion forums are increasingly common in blended learning environments but the relationship to student learning outcomes has not been reported for anatomy teaching. Forums were monitored in two multicampus anatomy courses; an introductory first year course and a second year physiotherapy-specific course. The forums are structured with a separate site for each course module and moderated weekly by staff. Students are encouraged to post to new threads (initial post) and answer queries in threads started by others (reply post). Analysis of forums was conducted separately for each course and included overall activity (posts and views) for a full semester and a detailed analysis for one week in the middle of semester. Students were classified as zero, moderate, or high contributors to the forums based on the number of posts. Final mark for the course was related to level of forum contribution using nonparametric tests. Forum threads were characterized as task-focused, administrative, or other. A higher proportion of second year (36%) than first-year (17%) students posted on the forums and the postings were more likely to be task-focused and student initiated. Second-year students that posted frequently to the forum gained a higher final mark for the course than those that did not post or only posted a moderate number of times (P < 0.01). This relationship was not evident for first-year students who had a much higher proportion of administrative threads. Forums in anatomy courses can be powerful learning tools encouraging deeper learning and improved learning outcomes.

publication date

  • March 2013