Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Better Use of Discussion Boards?

I left this post over at the Technical Support Discussion Board - if other people have ideas re: discussion boards, chime in there. I think this link takes you there! (Although I am not sure... this discussion board software has not won me over with its features, alas...)

UPDATE: Kudos to the Coursera staff: they have implemented weekly subforums. That should help a lot in managing signal-to-noise, esp. since the first class essay assignment will be announced tomorrow. Very nice! I am impressed by the quick response to this particular issue.


Here are three ideas (I chose just three in honor of the Brothers Grimm, of course… the Law of Three) about some things that might help make the discussion boards more useful - ideas that fall within the limits of what the software itself allows (no profile pages for participants? no avatar images? ouch! I really miss those features). Anyway, here are some ideas:

1. More Specific Forums. Instead of "General Discussion" it would be good to add some more specific forums in which to create threads - like Brothers Grimm, for example, and similar forums for each week. I'm very interested in reading about Brothers Grimm this week; I am less interested in the random topics people are posting about (although I'm sure there are people interested in the more wide-ranging threads). So, I would really like to see a "General Discussion" forum for truly general topics but ALSO a dedicated forum for each week's reading, so that those of us with less time can focus in on threads related to the actual reading.

2. Featured Threads. I don't really have time to weed/read through all the threads, many of which are not exactly discussion threads, or which are not likely to lead to good sustained discussion. It would be great if the course moderators identified threads of good general interest and promoted those. I don't know if it is possible to have "featured threads" in the software itself (I just see last updated, top threads, newest and subscribed), but even if there were just a list of links to "Featured Threads," that would work.

3. Help with the HTML editor. Almost no one seems to be including images in their posts, and few people are including links. A little introductory video with a step-by-step how-to showing the use of the editor and positively encouraging people to include links and images might help. (I, for one, had never seen the Markdown system and it is a bit odd at first.) Images can really help bring online discussions to life and break up the black-and-white monotony of text text text - especially without avatar images, it sure would be nice if people were inclined to include images. We can all use a meme now and then.

Truth be told, I am mostly interacting with people via Twitter, Google+ and blogs… but I am trying to visit at least a few threads every day. These are just some thoughts about how that experience might be more productive/efficient, at least for me. Thanks for listening… if someone is out there listening…? :-)


  1. Do you mean you're interacting with other people on the course via Google+ and Twitter, I wonder? How are you doing that? Is there a hashtag?

  2. Hi Clare, nice to meet you here - and now I have an avatar to go with your name; super! Yes, I have been using #fantasysf and #courserafantasy at both Google+ and at Twitter and have met up with some nice folks that way. I'm esp. glad to have found people at Google+ since that is my main place to hang out online!
    I haven't visited the course site but someone at Google+ said the first writing assignment has no real guidelines - so I think I am going to do a storytelling approach after all, rather than an analytical essay. I know I will enjoy it far more that way!
    If you are at Google+ and/or Twitter, let me know -
    Here I am at Google+ and I am OnlineCrsLady at Twitter. I don't really use Twitter at all, but I resurrected my account for this course since it seems like a good forum for interaction... because really, the discussion boards there at Coursera basically just make my head hurt. :-)

  3. Hi my name is cassandra and I am currently a full time college student who is also participating in this Coursera class as well as several others. :) here's my blog for the class so far

  4. Got it, Cassandra - super! I subscribed! For me, it's a lot more fun/easy to share things via blogs that I can see updated in Google Reader. I participated a LOT a the discussion boards this week, but now that I am finding more people with blogs, that will be so much better I think! Happy reading!

  5. One other idea for the forums (and one that we discussed with a Coursera engineer at a Coursera Meetup in Mountain View yesterday) is to make it easy to 'follow' people whose ideas or approaches you like. Perhaps this can be done through Search. I'll follow your blog, but I also like the give-and-take of the forums.

    1. Agreed! I love the give-and-take at Google+ which is where I mostly hang out. I'm blogging for this class, but my real preference is usually just to be Google+ with all that give and take. The difference is that I can FOLLOW people at Google+ and click on a link to get to anyone's profile page and see their stream. Without profile pages to go along with our discussion boards at Coursera, I feel lost. Too impersonal for me. :-)

  6. Laura,I'm appreciating all your input in the Fantasy/Science Fiction course! I'm now following you on twitter. About twitter... Has anyone got a hashtag going for the course? I have to say that I got so caught up in trying to read the discussions in the course itself that I haven't looked out there to see what else is happening!



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