Having recently completed the WideWorldEd open educator MOOC, the first week of the MOOC the platform (based on Desire2Learn) allowed learners to view the discussion forums as threads – not dissimilar to gmail or google groups (or old fashioned discussion forums) you could easily see the title of thread and visually see the flow of conversation – you could see who was saying what, but more than that – you could see which threads were "conversations" rather than just replies to the initial post.
Unfortunately, after the first week, this all changed – they updated the platform and removed the option to see the threads. At that point, I promptly stopped using the forums. I found them to be useless – as all I could see was the latest five posts and how many people replied. I could not see the conversation. I no longer had the information I needed to join the conversation.
This of course got me wondering – the pessimist in me (which doesn't speak too often) was saying – they did this on purpose. They tried to stifle the conversations. Some learners complain that the chaos around the discussions is overwhelming. To make them less overwhelming we need less posts – and how do we do that? By making the forums more about one way conversation (between learner and tutor) rather than true discussions.
So I need to ask, are MOOC platforms intentionally designed to stifle learner-learner conversations?