Quantifying and Incentivizing Exploration of Reputable Sources for Argument Formation in an Online Discussion Forum
Keywords:online debate, undergraduate physics, reference register, Sakai, e-learning
Nuclear power forms part of the first-year physics undergraduate course work in the extended curriculum program at the University of the Western Cape. This investigation intends to assist students in mastering their understanding of how nuclear power works through the development of critical thinking skills around the topic and to create awareness among students of the implications of expanding a nuclear power footprint. Through debate, students in this course investigate the impact of South Africa increasing its nuclear footprint within a global context. In this work, students were encouraged to explore publications and reputable websites surrounding this topic and based on their findings formulate arguments. The authors conceptualized and developed a Sakai tool (based on Learning Tools Interoperability), called Reference Register (RR) to compliment the work. RR stores the reference uploaded by each student, shares uploaded literature resources to the group members, and quantifies the number of times a student uses a reference when presenting their argument. The incorporation of the RR was intended to encourage students to formulate arguments based on well-founded literature. Authors sort to investigate in which ways and to what extent does an online discussion forum facilitate students becoming ethically, environmentally, and socially aware in the area of nuclear energy and to assist students in becoming better in their professional communication skills. The outcome of this student engagement included students becoming familiar with what constitutes a well-formulated scientific argument based on a literature review, group engagement, becoming aware of South African current affairs regarding nuclear power, and its social and economic impact.
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