Saturday, September 17, 2005

Classmate Interaction

I thought I'd do a quick-and-dirty post on how the interaction with my other virtual classmates is going.

The primary communication medium is the forums. This is one benefit that the paradigm of a digital classroom has over a physical one - if you miss the answer to a question or are out for a day (not to say you'd ever skip class, right??) in a physical class, then the answer is just gone, unless you have someone there taking notes for you, and then you get into whether or not they wrote it down completely, translated it to you correctly - it gets a bit like the game telephone.

With a digital class, when a professor (or student!) answers a question, it's there for everybody to see - everybody gets to see it, save it, reference it, AND search it! Searchability is very nice - no digging through your class notes for "point estimate" or whatever; just search it, and whammo - there it is! Of course, this gap will close as more people take notes in class digitally, but it's still nice to have a written, searchable record of exactly what the professor said.

I have worked with some of my other classmates a good bit, just helping each other to understand concepts - a few via phone, but mostly instant messaging and e-mail. It's been really neat getting to know these folks - coincidentally, the ones I talk with most are in Arizona.

Anyhow, because I'm a huge nerd, I thought I'd try to show what the forum activity looked like by number of posts, for anyone reading this that can't go and see for themselves.

I'd say for class one (QBA 502), it's pretty consistent with the course difficulty - the first week, the whole school thing (nevermind the course) was brand new, so some pretty reasonable volume. It really ramped up the second week, that week being advertised in advance as the hardest week of the course, and then tailed off as a the course got easier. Recall week 6 is the Final Exam week. You might think there would be more posts there, but between no questions being answered after the final was available (Wednesday of that week - see post-mortem on the course for more), and the other week's forums available for review and searching - it makes a little more sense.

Our current course (Managerial Economics, which I'll wait to week 3 or 4 of to review) - which we're just ending the first week of (there are already more posts for Week 1 than when I made this chart!) - has already seen much higher posting volumes. I'd say this is accurate - For me, at least, this has been more difficult material. I do enjoy Econ, but it's a little fuzzier by nature, and is not as cut-and-dry as statistics is. Of course, a good bit of it has been some good class discussion on examples of theories in practice - e.g. economic profit in the real world, marginal cost & benefit in the real world, etc. Week 2 is obviously quite low, because it's just now starting. ;-)

Recall there's 60 people in the cohort, so your average post per person only looks like 2-3 per week at the most - a more interesting analysis would be to Pareto that by person, because as you can imagine, some people post quite heavily (guilty ;-) ...), whereas others might not post at all. Of us active and semi-active posters, I think we've got quite the community going on - lots of good discussion, students-helping-students, and insightful examples of application of business theory, etc. Of the inactive posters, I'd say that ... well ... I don't know what to think, because they don't post. They're like that one student in each undergrad class (come on - I know you all knew him/her - or were him/her) who never showed up to your class except to take the tests (if then!). And to be fair - for the courses so far, at least, posting (or even reading, but I can't imagine getting by without that!) is not required.

Time willing (ha!), I'll try and keep this little chart updated regularly-ish, and maybe to some more extra nerdy analysis, such as true average posts per person, a Pareto chart, maybe a little histogram of posting volume, words per post, total words posted - we'll just go crazy, here! ;-)


Chris Hobbs said...

Well, you're hardly a disinterested observer Daniel, since you started several threads this week in Econ that generated well over half of the posts :)

It certainly was interesting to see the breakdown by week for QBA. I have a strong hunch that a Pareto chart will reveal yet another example of the famous 80/20 rule.

dforester said...

Hey, I acknowledged that - "some people post quite heavily (guilty ;-) ...)"! ;-)

I don't know if/when I'll have time to do the additional forum analysis, but am very interested to see what the results would be, especially of a pareto by user - so that might bring up my marginal benefit above my marginal cost! ;-)

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