Public Forum Help Seeking: The Impact of Providing Anonymity on Student Help Seeking Behaviour David J. Barnes Published in Computer Based Learning in Science '99, Editor Graham M. Chapman, ISBN 80-7042-144-4. Conference Proceedings of CBLIS '99, Twente University, Enschede, the Netherlands, 2nd July - 6th July 1999. Abstract We investigate the impact of providing anonymity to a group of undergraduate Computing students, in order to encourage them to seek help for course related questions. We supplemented traditional help seeking mechanisms - such as personal visits to a lecturer, electronic mail and a bulletin board news system - with a Web-based question and answer page. The Web page allowed questions to be sent directly to a member of the course team, but guaranteed anonymity to the help seeker. In our analysis, we focus on providing a comparison between usage of the Web-based page and the local course-specific bulletin board. Both provide a similar model of public forum help seeking, in which a question is asked by an individual and seen by all those on the course. Among our conclusions is that the anonymous page was at least as important as the news system in supporting help seeking, both in terms of the numbers of questions asked, and the number of users. Although not all students used the page to ask a question, many used it as a source of answers to their own questions, reducing the requirement on staff to answer repetitive questions. Comments from some students suggested that the anonymous environment was also more comfortable for them to use; this is an important factor in overcoming a reluctance to seek help that is a familiar problem to teachers. Keywords Help seeking, anonymity, Computer Science Education, WWW, bulletin board news, computer mediated communication, CMC, student learning support. The HelpSeeking.doc of the paper is available in Microsoft Word format. Copyright 1999, David J. Barnes and CBLIS'99. This document (http://www.cs.ukc.ac.uk/people/staff/djb/papers/anon.html) is maintained by: mailto:D.J.Barnes@ukc.ac.uk, to whom any comments and corrections should be addressed. © David Barnes. Created: 15th October 1998 Last Updated: 13th July 199
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