Discourse Analysis in a Virtual Classroom: A MOOC Example

Author First name, Last name, Institution

Laila Mohebi

Document Type


Source of Publication

SSRN Electronic Journal

Publication Date



The overall objective of this paper is to examine the discourse of a virtual classroom from a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) platform website called Coursera. Crystal's (2001) Language Features of Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC) was used as the main theoretical framework to analyze the discourse. By doing so, we answered the question: What are the typical features of CMC by students in a virtual classroom? The answer gives us a deeper recognition of CMC's features and its implication in teaching and learning. This paper uses an interpretive methodology by working from qualitative data on the ground observing and focusing on CMC features of discourse among a particular group of students in a Coursera course called "Think Again: How to Reason and Argue" by Walter Sinnott-Armstrong and Ram Neta from Duke University. The discourse analyzed was in one of the forums called "Construct Your Own Argument". The students created this forum and called it "Ram's Lecture Series Needs a Mental Health Warning" that was a response to an assignment. The findings indicated that the discourse of virtual classrooms could help educators better understand how students think and function. The discourse can be used to see whether teaching and learning is occurring, and whether a concept is understood or not. Nevertheless, we must not neglect educating instructors on how to better use the CMC and how to read what learners are saying or trying to say. In addition, instructors must put some rules and guidelines for students so that they create a safe and secure platform for them to interact. Otherwise, students will be reluctant to participate and talk. Another major teaching and learning aspect in this research paper is mostly directed towards language teachers. They can detect grammar or spelling mistakes and create supplement materials or revise certain concepts or lessons. Finally, the implications for teaching and learning are discussed.




Elsevier BV


Communication | Education

Indexed in Scopus


Open Access