Teaching and Learning
in the Digital World

Interactive Web Pages: Online Discussion

Deborah Healey

This was originally part of the 2000 Culpeper Workshop at the University of Puget Sound. The links have not all been updated.

One of the best uses of the Internet -- if not the very best use -- is to connect people. Whether it's like-minded academics, students interested in using a foreign language with native speakers, or people in need of information, the Internet offers several options.

Online discussion comes in two basic forms: real-time (synchronous) and anytime (asynchronous). Many instructors will mix and match the options to fit a particular need.

Synchronous Options

Chat is one of the most common real-time interaction tools. It can be web-based or through software, such as IRC or Telnet. Chat can take place at a public chatroom or on a private channel. 

Consider: Take a look at my Tech Tip on Chat and scan Marsha Chan's article, " No Talking, Please, Just Chatting: Collaborative Writing with Computers" -- could you use chat in your classes?

Try a web-based chat at  the University of Oregon's Yamada Lab - a good place to bring a group: http://babel.uoregon.edu/run.biapchat

Asynchronous Options

While email and mailing lists provide an opportunity for asynchronous discussion, they're pretty slow. Other options for online discussion can be fast enough to seem like real-time interactions, while still providing an enduring record of who said what to whom.

Consider: How does online discussion change the dynamics in a face-to-face class? Are the same people likely to dominate a discussion?

Try it: Go to Nicenet at www.nicenet.org and join class number [deleted]. Give yourself a login name and password that you will be able to remember. Go to Conferencing, where you will see the topic Online Discussion and a few other topics about web pages and web searching. Look at the interactions for one of the topics. Go to the Online Discussion conference and reply to my message. Notice that you can save everyone's comments to disk by copying and pasting into Word.

Try it: Create a class on Nicenet based on an anticipated project

Commercial options -- Take a look at Blackboard's CourseInfo at http://www.blackboard.com

Go to the Interactive Web Pages home page

Updated November 2, 2000 by Deborah Healey, dhealey AT uoregon DOT edu 
Copyright 2009, Deborah Healey, Oregon State University