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Nagel, Blignaut and Cronje, (2009) authored a journal article entitled Read-only participants: A case for student communication in online classes. Lynette Nagel holds a doctorate degree in Computer-Integrated Education. She is a designer (instructional) at the University of Pretoria. Seugnet Blignaut is a professor in educational research at the North-West University. She has a doctorate degree in Computer-Assisted learning obtained from the University of Pretoria. Johannes Cronje is the Dean, Faculty of Informatics. He teaches at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. He has experience with computer education that spans over 20 years. He has supervised approximately 60 masters and 27 PhD students. The three authors have published many peer-reviewed articles, including the present one.

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The research problem arises from the widely held opinion that the establishment of an online community is the most crucial prerequisite for triumphant completion of an online course. Besides, it arises from the idea that triumphant completion of an online course depends on an efficient communication between the taught group and the facilitator. The study investigated internet-based learning for a Masters course in computer-incorporated education. This was at the University of Pretoria.

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The research questions are to find out the way online activity and postings of discussions influence learning and the completion of a course, and to find out the way collaborative behavior of students and community integration relates to their success.

The research methodology involved triangulation, which means using mixed methodology approaches. This involved the use of qualitative and quantitative research methods. Qualitative approaches allowed the researchers to establish the background of nonparticipating students and the opinions and feedback of a class. This involved using ATLAS.tiTM software to conduct content analysis on primary documents. The quantitative approach involved the use of a tracking tool for students in the learning management system. This enabled quantifying of students’ online activities. It also measured the amount of postings.

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The study produced significant findings. For instance, the measure of the quantitative indices indicated noteworthy discrepancies between stratifications of the performance of students. Students felt discontent for invisible students who made trivial contributions or absented themselves without notice. “Read-only participants” threatened the effectiveness of an online community. Students who had difficulty accessing the internet managed their internet time effectively. Seldom-contributing and unavailable students risked abandoning the profits of the online learning community. Better-quality contributions (and not quantity) built the trust of grown students.

The implications of the research are that online facilitators should seek ways to prevent read only participants in the online class. For example, facilitators should communicate the obligatory amount of the online postings. They should encourage students to submit quality and thought-provoking postings. Besides, there should be grading of discussions and issuance of regular feedback.

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