Reflecting on the difference between the discourse in the Ultraversity First Class conferences and the Hotseat tool, I am struck again by the ‘tangible’ difference in the learning experience that different online tools can provide. The fragmented nature of FC conversations is in stark contrast to the rich flow of ideas possible where contributions are displayed sequentially on the same page. Take a look at an screenshot of the Hotseat Tool and FC to get an idea about what I mean. It is also worth pointing out that there are a range of bulletin board systems that fall somewhere on a continuum between the two.
The advantages are the ability to quickly scan up and down as one might when trying to understand a complex section in a book. This helps not just with reading and understanding, but also with the composing of contributions and replies. Indeed, this seems to be such an obvious difference that I wonder why anyone would through choice build software that didnít have this facility!
So in terms of Ultralab mantras, it would seem to support the view of the importance of discourse presentation – simple and obvious but overlooked by many online communication software developers. Work at Ultralab on online community tools such as Think.com and subsequent use in online communities have demonstrated this point clearly. The ability to display contributions in a wide range of ways that offer some of the opportunities enjoyed in f2f settings is important. For example, small group work, presentations, debating ideas and issues, brainstorming ideas, etc. are all strategies that teachers employ on a daily basis as a means of facilitating learning amongst students. Indeed, the asynchronisity offered by online environments offers yet another dimension in that it can be used to promote considered reflection of a depth that is perhaps less easy to encourage in f2f conversations.
It is here that issues of framing discourse become intertwined with issues of presentation. How can online discourses be set up in such a way as to give the maximum potential for success using the tools that are available. The more limiting the tools, the less rich the experience available for designers of learning experiences.
Another take on this is from the angle of learning protocols. This document has a list of some of the ones that I have used before. They were developed with a colleague Rita Walker for a specific purpose, but you may find them useful as a starting point.