Canvas recently enhanced the Discussions feature so that users have the option of creating a threaded or non-threaded (flat) discussion.
A threaded discussion nests replies so that a student can post a reply to a specific post, which means that replies will not necessarily appear in chronological order; rather, they will be loosely grouped into separate conversations under the main topic.
A non-threaded discussion essentially lists all replies to a post right under the main post, in chronological order. This mirrors how a discussion develops in a face-to-face environment, and is similar to the comment format used by Facebook and most online blogs.
Each discussion type has its advantages and disadvantages. Threaded comments may make it easier to follow mini conversations, whereas flat comments allow the user to see how threads have developed chronologically. Threaded discussions make it visually apparent who is replying to whom, and tend to focus the writer on the specific content of the post to which he or she is responding. On the other hand, in a threaded conversation, the user can readily compose a response to a single post rather than synthesizing the information from multiple posts; users may tend to read more of the conversation if the discussion format is flat. In addition, in a threaded discussion, a new reply to an early post may be overlooked by those who are inclined to follow the tail end of a conversation.
For those of you who have used both discussion formats, which do you prefer—and why? Can you envision different applications within the same class for each of these formats?
This post was written by Stefanie Sanders (Adjunct Professor and Course Designer).