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This project was the first of many in an attempt to characterize the differences between online writing and more traditional formats. Students in my Dual-Credit Biology course were divided into two groups upon culmination of a biochemistry unit. Half of the class wrote a comprehensive unit summary in a traditional format which was turned in directly to the teacher. The other half of the class composed a summary in an online forum for a much wider audience (Ning network).

Summaries were analyzed for word count, readability and effect on content-based exam scores. Exam scores and readability were closely aligned. However, strong differences were noted in average word count. Students writing in online forums used significantly fewer words to achieve the same overall impact. Implications of using online forums for future enhancement of student summarization are discussed. My take? Writing online is a potentially powerful tool for summarization of course content.

The details of the project (including slide show) as well as the full post is found here.
Please comment inline with any information/ideas you have to add to the discussion!

Thanks much,



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Having read your study from your link and posts, posted is the response statement 'But what I did notice is the MS Word need to “talk around” a concept. Say -explaining the structure of glycogen- as opposed to linking to a visual for the reader." is a key issue. In a recent study, waiting publication, a small group of students (middle school) used images to support drafting and revising their text. These students used images to convey and support meaning rather than text alone. Students online may have anticipated that links were part of their explanation, therefore less text is expected. What instructions were given to students regarding this concern?
Here is an example on another forum where remarks are loaded with links.
Are there really among us persons who believe that essays not allow cheating to happen? Let's don't deceive ourselves! Lastly, there are even master theses but taking account of such URLs as and (not mentioning such less euphemistic Polish URLs as and ), a thesis defense ( ) is the art of survival especially of examiners.
Your talk of using images to support text is exactly what they did. Early in the year when we began working online, I took them through a crash course of how to link, embed, etc. So, yes- I would have expected them to do that. On this project, I gave them little instruction as I really wanted to see what they would do alone. Their scoring guide (given out back in September) for blogging has a section for linking to other sources as being critical to online communication.

So- I knew they would do it... I just wanted them to now do it when they wanted, and not a certain number of time because it was on some rubric.

You pretty much lost me on the last paragraph. The student work on this one was pretty brief... and it is all online for anyone to see. I am pretty sure it wasn't plagiarized. If that's what you're getting at?

Thanks for the reply,

Sorry for the confusion. The sample post was to suggest that the remarks were more links rather than their own text. Did students use excessive links and images? What would be an appropriate limit?
Oh I see.... that was an example.

No- they didn't do that at all. Good point though.
In fact, I would have linked more than they did if I were presenting such complex content.

Thanks for the clarification.


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