A More Authentic Online Discussion

Credit: iStock.com/Pavel Muravev
Credit: iStock.com/Pavel Muravev

Discussion forums have brought both promise and disappointment to online educators. They promise to allow all students to lend their voice to a discussion without worry of being interrupted or slowing down the class. But they often degenerate into places where students repeat one another and make only perfunctory comments to satisfy the bare minimum discussion requirements.

It is easy to blame students for not taking advantage of the affordances offered by online discussion, but in reality, much of the blame lies with the format that online discussion has used. The traditional online discussion adopts a model that is far afield from a real discussion, and it should come as no surprise that it often fails to generate vigorous debate. Commentators have suggested various alternative formats for online discussion, but these are usually still artificial, guided by a paradigm that is not based in real discussion. I suggest that faculty instead look to real-world discussions to guide online discussion.

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