Thank you for your thoughtful responses to my questions. It is a pleasure to have responses from someone who knows both the technology, as well as having insights into the educational applications. This is a real treat.
As you may know I am one of the inventors of online education, having designed and taught the first fully online university course in the world (1986, University of Toronto). For the past 32 years I have been teaching online, building a theoretical approach entitled Collaborativism (Harasim, 2017), whereby to study learning effectiveness in online education, and developing a Collaborativist pedagogy and a research methodology based on discourse (transcript) analysis.
Until 4 years ago I was using the learning environment that we developed in the 1990s, called Virtual-U that had a very powerful and robust forum as its centerpiece. For me, discourse is the heart and soul of learning. However, when the system went down there was no one @SFU who could reboot it and I have been stuck using Canvas for my online courses.
I have been seeking an alternative system for many years, since as you say, Canvas, Moodle, D2L, Blackboard are horrible and are utterly impossible for real learning because they do not support collaborative discourse. I have looked at blogging software, general forums, Slack, etc. Nothing that can support state-of-the-art online education, training, collaboration, knowledge building, etc.
The idea of developing my own software remains alive but that is another story. But then I came across @Discourse, which has triggered my interest.
As you guessed my questions were posed from the perspective of the researcher (in which I include the student and the teacher as researchers) who can benefit from the formative analytics. I have developed a research methodology to visualize and study learning online. So the nature of the messaging system is very important.
Also, clearly, I am equally interested in how well @Discourse could be shaped into a learning environment for instructors and learners.
So, given that context, I will respond to your comments and questions:
- I’m interested in what you mean by Discursive Psychology, and your wife’s methodology for discourse analysis. Let’s share papers. I just completed a chapter on my discourse analytics methodology.
- Your work with nVIVO and ATLAS.ti sounds interesting. I invested a lot of money in the 1990s in training researchers and students to use ATLAS, and nVIVO. Our work did not lead to promising results. Did you have a different experience?
- BIG Question: Why number posts??? I am incredulous at the response by you and Sam Saffron, which dismissed numbering posts chronologically as “noise”. NO way! Not noise but very informative cognitive markers and meaning makers. In my courses, discourse is the single key learning activity—one of my favorite pedagogies is what I call: SOS (Student-mediated Online Seminars). In a class let’s say of 16 students, around 120 messages per week are posted. Automatic numbering of each post is very important for many reasons such as: message number helps the student discussants locate where they are in the seminar, understand the size of the seminar to date, and determine their pace of participation. Also, student moderators get a sense of the volume and progress of the seminar and are better able to facilitate movement and advancement.
- Of course my analyses are not only quantitative, but primarily qualitative. To do qualitative analyses (or retrospective analysis), we code each message according to learning type, date, sender, message size, etc etc. Since Canvas does not number the posts, students have to print out the transcript, and then reorganize the posts chronologically, and then manually number each post in order to code it.
- My students have written many critiques of Canvas because the Discussion forum does NOT automatically number each post, and students find it infuriating. So do I. The pioneers of online education in the 1980s and early 1990s used computer conferencing systems such as EIES, Participate, Confer, *Forum, CoSy. Messages in the conferences/forums were always numbered, and many provided multiple perspectives on the discourse. This is ESSENTIAL, imho. (FYI: my Virtual-U system numbers each post, and could also scroll without stopping at each page. These features are not mutually exclusive)
- Finally, a brief comment on time: truly there is not much valuable information that you can wring out of this indicator, imho. Time on a post can signify SO MANY things: looking up a reference, using a dictionary, taking longer to understand the post, taking longer to compose a post, being interrupted by something external, getting a coffee, becoming distracted, ……Time on a message is very subjective and attempts to analyze the reasons are assumption which cannot be empirically proven. Participate, the system that I used at OISE, actually showed which user had read a message. Simpler, overall with roughly the same (few) gains.
So Jay, I would very much like your assistance in helping me to consider transferring my online courses to @Discourse.
And Sam Saffron, I hope that we can continue our discussions about the messaging features of @Discourse. So far, I think it is great. As I said earlier, I can see lots of ways to make it a winner for educational adoption.