Researchers have found evidence that student participation in asynchronous online learning can lead to higher order learning (Garrison and Garrison 2003), increased critical thinking (Szabo and Schwartz 2011) and enable a multidimensional process of assessment (Vonderwell et al. 2001). This paper explores the uses and potential benefits of assessed asynchronous discussion fora within an education studies programme. An analysis of final year student contributions (n=20) to an asynchronous discussion about the validity of asynchronous discussions for assessment identifies evidence of students’ cognition and metacognitive understanding of recurring themes of social and cognitive presence in online fora. In particular, the way in which asynchronous discussion can allow students time to refine, revise and reflect on their own understanding at their own pace so supporting learners who lack confidence in their spoken English is highlighted by the students.
Other emerging themes which impacted on student learning included learner identity, the importance of assignment structure and the clarity of appropriate criteria. The paper concludes with reflections on the untapped potential of asynchronous discussions within education studies programmes and explores ways in which some of that potential can be better utilised.