Vicki Suter

Discovering the power of good questions

Where’s the structural disconnect in a discussion forum?

To continue the reflection on discussion forums that I initiated in the last couple of posts, a fellow student of mine, Jim Thayer, and I have been in conversation about form, function, limitations and possibilities associated with discussion forums. Here’s an email message he sent me:

“I have been thinking about this a lot during this course, as this new technology still feels pretty “clunky”. The highly structured format that online teaching imposes on the communications stream got me thinking about the actual structural aspects of discourse and of human cognition.

We’re still in the phase of trying to adapt the fluidity of a multi-participant discussion into the confines of rigid thread structure. What I was trying to achieve was to mimic the way purposeful intellectual discourse manages to simultaneously dis-aggregate ideas and at the same time rearrange them along organized hierarchies of concepts.

I suspect that within a few years our ability to capture and map multi-threaded conversations will be much advanced, and may permit us to clearly extrapolate a full spectrum of alternative and/or parallel lines of discussion. Perhaps, then we will be able to adapt the presentation of these discussions to appeal to different types of learners. We could use a mapping approach for the visually oriented, and a recorded argumentation for the audio-learner, and some lines of inquiry might even be captured in mathematical terms.

At that point, we may begin to present the interplay of ideas in ways that are not possible today in our uni-dimensional classrooms.”

From personal email communication with Jim Thayer, with permission.


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This entry was posted on September 5, 2012 by in Discussion forums, Learning, Technology.
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