Assessing Learning Experiences and Outcomes in a Social Q&A Website

Background

Learning is multifaceted process that includes cognition, affect, and behavior. Searching for information through the use of information retrieval systems is a potentially rich learning experience, yet the relationship between searching and learning is not covered broadly in the scholarly literature. As online social networks connect individuals across geographic boundaries,  the digital interactions between people and information have the potential to support rich, multifaceted learning experiences. Community-based social question and answer (Q&A) websites can serve as a rich learning space that support students’ intellectual growth. This sponsored research project investigates how students’ learning experiences and outcomes could be enhanced with the functions and interactions supported by the social Q&A website Brainly.com.

In this exploratory study, Brainly.com is conceptualized as a digital learning space in which users engage in various online activities for learning, such as describing their information needs, critically analyzing information, evaluating the quality of information, synthesizing information to create new knowledge, and using sources to substantiate their authority and expertise. Semi-structured telephone interviews with approximately 25 teen users of Brainly.com will be conducted in two phases: mid-summer and early-fall of 2016. A qualitative content analysis of the interview transcripts will identify and characterize the types of learning experiences and outcomes that occur as a result of participating in Brainly.com’s social Q&A activities online. The results of this project will assess whether students’ participation, information behaviors, and social interactions on Brainly.com support their learning experiences and outcomes.

I participated in this project as a Summer Graduate Research Fellow at the School of Information at the University of Michigan. My participation in the REMS fellowship program was generously funded by the Institute for Museum and Library Services and the University of Michigan Rackham Graduate School Faculty Allies for Diversity Program.

Project Team
Soo Young Rieh, Lead Researcher
Elizabeth Lieutenant, Contributing Researcher
Erik Choi, Research Sponsor
Katie Sagan, Research Sponsor