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Editors’ Choice: The Purpose of Online Discussion

Are online discussions really discussions? I’ve been wondering this since I started teaching online. Many of my students, friends, and colleagues get a sour look on their face when it comes to discussion online, whether it be synchronous or asynchronous. They express, sometimes implicitly and others explicitly, a common sentiment that online discussion is not as good as the real thing, implying that — like the initial question asks — online discussion is not really discussion. There is a presumption that online discussions are meaningfully similar to discussions which happen in brick-and-mortar classrooms. Is that presumption accurate? What is online discussion, and is it a lesser version of “the real thing”?

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