Designing for interaction, thinking and academic achievement in a Tanzanian undergraduate chemistry course

Sydney Enock Msonde*, Jan Van Aalst

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
22 Downloads (Pure)


Virtual learning environments are used in higher education around the world to promote student learning. However, in many countries it has not yielded the expected effect on student interaction and learning. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether the use of certain pedagogical approaches would promote student interaction, higher-order thinking and achievement. 102 undergraduate students taking an introductory chemistry course at a Tanzanian university participated in the study, and were randomly assigned to three groups. Each group first studied one topic using the control design (non-interactive learning, NIL) to establish a baseline. Then each group studied three further topics using different pedagogical approaches (NIL), discussion forums (medium interactive learning) and podcasts (highly interactive learning). Data included interviews, subject tests, and the content of online discussion forums. All qualitative data were coded, and repeated-measures ANOVA was used to analyze within design and between design effects; student interaction patterns were analyzed using social network analysis. Results show that social interaction, academic achievement and thinking improved progressively over the three topics (iterations) in each design. The changes in instructor pedagogical strategies and the actions of students to bring what they had learned from podcasts to the learning community contributed to the marked improvement. We conclude that effective use of discussion forums in higher education in Tanzania can produce important learning effects (interaction, thinking, and enhanced academic achievement) and is a low-bandwidth strategy, but coupling podcasts with discussion forums may be a powerful way to enhance the effects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1389-1413
Number of pages25
JournalEducational technology research and development
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Asynchronous designs
  • Constructivist pedagogy
  • Higher order thinking
  • Interactive learning


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