Free Trial

Safari Books Online is a digital library providing on-demand subscription access to thousands of learning resources.


Methodological Considerations for Quantitative Content Analysis of Online Interactions related to the use of contextual information. To facilitate replicability of existing coding schemes, researchers need to carefully document a process of adapting, re-defining or even re-categorizing coding, and report the process in published work. Beyond methodological issues, the use of advanced statistical techniques like multi-level analysis to examine the data at group and individual level could reveal new insights into the nature, process or outcomes of online interactions. Within a relatively short span of time since content analysis has been applied to online inter- actions, review papers on content analysis coding schemes (e.g., De Wever et. al, 2006) or studies comparing these schemes (e.g., Marra et. al., 2004) have been reported. On one hand, it speaks volume about the potential of this method for analyzing online interactions. On the other hand, it shows that there is a need to take stock of such applica- tions. Studies that summarize, review or compare coding schemes, especially those that measure similar constructs, will be critical in enhancing reported coding schemes or developing new cod- ing schemes. For example, among coding schemes that focus on knowledge construction, it will be useful to review the theoretical underpinning or assumptions about knowledge construction. A relevant question to ask is, "Does the scheme adopt a cognitivist view about knowledge construction or a social constructivist approach of knowledge building?" Further, for coding schemes that are based on similar theoretical underpinnings, theoretical analysis and empirical comparison studies could be conducted to enhance the coding schemes. In addition, coding schemes that focus on unexplored theoretical constructs could also be developed, for example, coding schemes that reveal epistemological or ontological views of the participants. Finally, we emphasize more development of analysis tools and techniques that researchers or even instructors can easily use to understand interaction in online communities. Current prac- tices of quantitative content analysis heavily rely on manual coding, thus requiring an extensive amount of time to analyze and interpret a large corpus of data. Recently, some researchers have reported automatic coding techniques based on computational linguistics. Examples of automatic coding programs include the Linguistics Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC) (Pennebaker, Booth, & Francis, 2007), Virtual Intelligent Content Analyzer (VINCA) (Law, Yuen, Huang, Li, & Pan, 2007), and Dialogue Act Coding (DAC) system (Erkens & Janssen, 2008). While such automatic coding techniques are often criticized as a shallow mechanical approach, researchers can use automatic coding programs as a starting point to understand overall interaction patterns and identify segments of interaction worth for more in-depth analysis. CONCLUSION Analysis of online interactions in virtual com- munities is a fertile ground of research and there remain potentials for the application of quantitative content analysis as a tool to harvest rich content data hidden in these online interactions. Quanti- tative content analysis, an established research method, can provide insights into the nature and quality of interactions along the metacognitive, cognitive and social dimensions. To achieve that, researchers need to sharpen their tools by paying attention to the related methodological issues. In this chapter, we examined and summarized some reported coding schemes for asynchronous online interaction under three major categories: (a) (meta) cognition, (b) knowledge construction, and (c) presence. We summarized these extant coding schemes based on the following characteristics: constructs investigated, unit of analysis, and reli- ability information. In addition, some guidelines on the procedures for using quantitative content analysis were presented, not as a prescription, but as an aid for interested researchers. We adopted an interpretive stance towards content analysis 624