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Eur J Dent Educ. 2012 Feb;16(1):e3-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0579.2010.00662.x. Epub 2011 Mar 17.

Online discussion boards in dental education: potential and challenges.

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Faculty of Dentistry, King Abdul-Aziz University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.



Online discussion boards may enhance critical analysis and reflection, and promote the acquisition of knowledge.


To assess the effectiveness of online discussion board as a pedagogical tool in augmenting face-to-face teaching in dental education.


Data were collected from a discussion archive offered through the E-course website of the School of Dentistry, University of Birmingham, UK in 2008. A multi-component metric included; participation, social learning, cognitive processing, role of instructors, and quality of discussion. Messages were coded for 14 variables to evaluate these dimensions. Data were analyzed using content analysis methodology and a complete message was uses as the unit of analysis.


There were no significant difference in participation between students and instructors (P<0.05). Social interaction with peers appeared only through students posting messages with open questions (27/135 messages). The discussion board was mainly used by students to understand concepts (27/102 messages) and apply procedural knowledge (17/102 messages). Instructors were mainly replying to students' messages with (49/120 messages) or without (54/120 messages) proposing another action.


Online discussion boards were found to be successful pedagogical tools in dental education. Further development of instructor-led discussion approach is needed to promote higher level learning and collaborative thinking.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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