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Interactional coherence in asynchronous learning networks: A rhetorical approach

Internet and Higher Education Volume 11, Number 2, ISSN 1096-7516 Publisher: Elsevier Ltd


Numerous studies have affirmed the value of asynchronous online communication as a learning resource. Several investigations, however, have indicated that discussions in asynchronous environments are often neither interactive nor coherent. The research reported sought to develop an enhanced understanding of interactional coherence, argumentation, and topic drift in asynchronous learning environments. Rhetorical structure theory (RST) was used to analyze and assess the coherence of several asynchronous discussions. Findings include that asynchronous discussions take the form of dynamic rhetorical structures which are continuously redefined as new messages are added to a thread, that argumentation may be more prevalent in some discussions than others, that topic drift does not seem to occur as a matter of chance, but rather topics are manipulated to suit the individual preferences of the participants, and that the use of threading differs considerably from one discussion group to another. By demonstrating the applicability of RST, argumentative analysis, and topic drift analysis to asynchronous discussion, this research provides a framework and a terminology for fine-grained analysis of interactional coherence. By showing the applicability of RST to asynchronous discussion, this study has offered evidence that essay assessment technology could be developed for evaluating the quality of online discussions. The development of rhetorical networks as a graph theory for representing the semantics of asynchronous interaction could lead to a richer knowledge representation technology for inter-agent collaboration.


Potter, A. (2008). Interactional coherence in asynchronous learning networks: A rhetorical approach. Internet and Higher Education, 11(2), 87-97. Elsevier Ltd. Retrieved September 20, 2020 from .

This record was imported from Internet and Higher Education on January 29, 2019. Internet and Higher Education is a publication of Elsevier.

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