Effective Discussion through a computer-mediated anchored forum
In a first step the researchers analyze different failures providing a computer-based discussion forum promoting learning and view this failures modes as part of a design challenge. They then define a specific type of discussion forum, a computer-mediated anchored discussion forum, that has the potential to enable sustained on-topic dis-cussion. They introduce their discussion forum tool, CaMILE, as an example of a computer-mediated anchored forum and present two studies showing the impact of CaMILE as compared with that of newsgroups.
In the first study they found no differences in participation levels but significantly longer threads lengths in CaMILE disussions, suggesting that CaMILE discussions were more sustainded. Encouraged by the finding in Study 1 they compared news-group use in a class with CaMILE use in the same class during the subsequent term. Finally the study points out the value of anchors in facilitating effective discussion. An anchor is defined as a document or topic in which students may be interested in discussing, and a successful anchor is one that engenders a sustained discussion in the collaboration forum. At the end the authors make a suggestion for future research developing a theory about what makes a good discussion anchor.
The study reveals some hints how effectiveness of discussions in computer mediated forums can be enhanced. The reviewer would have expected a more in depth analysis of the research topic or a broader examination of possible pitfalls. Nevertheless the article provides an insight into the problems of computer-mediated discussion tools and their design.
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