Discourse for Learning Communities: UX Recs & Ideas


Hi, I’m Vanessa and I build learning communities for Peer 2 Peer University. We’re using Discourse for our internal community and for our project-based moocs like Learning Creative Learning. We’re also working with Mozilla on setting up their Discourse install for Webmaker and NYU for Play With Your Music. We’re very “discursive” :smile:

I’m looking for some help / advice for designing the UX with some thinking towards pedagogy. To wit:

  1. Cohorts: what’s the most graceful way to form cohorts? I was thinking of a.) assigning separate threads within a category (but then learners don’t cross-pollinate), b.) asking people what their interest is (metal music, css) and waiting until 3 people like it to create the sub-category (but then they feel less in control of it/it’s not emergent). Other suggestions?
  2. Categories: We’ve decided to make a category for each module–that way we can run the courses over and over. Is there a better way to do this?
  3. Adding resources: Should this be its own category or woven throughout the topics?
  4. Category display: what’s the benefit of showing the top 5 posts in each category? Diversity within the topic? Sample posts?
  5. Avatars per category: do the top 5 posters automatically show up? Is there a way to change this to make it more inviting to new folks / doesn’t look like a select few are dominating the conversation?
  6. Moderation: when folks complete the course, we were thinking about giving them full moderation privs. Benefits and drawbacks to that?
  7. Accessibility. We try to think about Universal Design for Learning, so we like that links expand and that the information appears contextually. What other ways have folks used Discourse to be inclusive of different types of community members (shy, color-blind, visual learners, etc).

Learning communities are really communities of practice, so there’s a lot of overlap as far as community design principles. Thought folks here would have some tasty expertise. Merci!

EDIT: I bet @lightyear has some good ideas here :smile:

(Jeff Atwood) #2

I apologize for not responding sooner. Now that you’ve been up and running with a Discourse community for a while, perhaps you can offer us some advice on the above. :wink:

I don’t know that I have enough experience with learning based Discourse communities to offer any specific guidance other than to experiment and see what happens.

  • You’ll note that we changed the category page since then to make it a little more inviting and simpler, so avatars aren’t even shown there at all.

  • Users will gain some basic moderation rights as they go from trust level 0 (new user) to trust level 3, and you can manually grant trust level 4 as needed.


Thanks @codinghorror – now that we’re on our 5th (6th?) learning community discourse install, planning to do a “How-to” guide on what we’ve learned. I’ll send along when it’s complete.

(Suzanne Dulin) #4

Hi @mozzadrella I am an instructional designer. I own a company, Sadhana, www.sadhanacatalog.com that I am currently developing 1 course for and have a friend developing another. We are creating best practices and developing the LMS environment so we can help other yoga/holistic healer types create courses.

I am also interested in sharing how Discourse can be used for learning purposes. Our goal is to create a true community of practice. We have asked our learners what they want, and this is what they describe (not in those terms, but they say “mentorship” “community” “ongoing support”).

I previously moderated a large discussion board which was not technically a learning community. It’s still online but not active, but I have moderated it for 15 years.

I am just setting everything up but if you want an e-learning buddy, I’m interested in sharing ideas.

(Erlend Sogge Heggen) #5

You can see a lot of examples of learning communities using Discourse here:

(Suzanne Dulin) #6

Thank you! I appreciate it. This to me a huge business differentiator. My customers have all said they want a strong community.