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Learning styles, sociodemographics and level of participation in a discussion forum

Dr Zlatko J Kovacic, Senior Lecturer, School of Information and Social Sciences, The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand, Lower Hutt, New Zealand. Email:


Learning styles, Felder-Solomon Index of Learning Styles, Academic performance, Discussion forum, Computer concepts, Distance education, Student Support


This paper reports initial research results on the relationship between student participation in an online discussion forum, their learning style profiles and various sociodemographics in a distance education computing course with Internet-based student support. The learning styles of students in a computer concepts class were evaluated and classified according to the Felder-Soloman Learning Style Index. The level of participation was measured using two indicators: the number of postings and lurking level. Using ANOVA and regression analysis we have identified statistically significant differences in the level of participation and academic performances between learner types, i.e. groups of students with different sociodemographic characteristics and learning preferences. We have shown that age and ethnicity are the most dominant factors with significant impact on the number of postings, lurking level and the course marks. Other factors such as gender, occupation and learning styles also played an important role in explaining the variation in the level of participation.

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