Fascinating discussion point! This is the first time I have noticed anything about a Moodle philosophy about discussions. I think it is extremely useful and productive for both new and old Moodle users to consider our values--maybe split this topic off as well.
Another issue is the board has expressed an interest in moderated forums: not for learning, but for other school . This seems to be contrary to the philosophy of Moodle in general, and therefore something Moodle is not interested in supporting. I'd hate to have to mix in a whole different forum system just to handle that need, if Moodle could be adapted to support moderation. Is this a closed issue, or would the Moodle project be receptive to adding moderation as a feature to serve this need?
...as you surmised, I'm not interested in supporting moderation for discussions in any context.
My guess is that Moodle forums were originally conceived to avoid heavy handed topic initiation or censorship by formal "moderators". Any other reasons? Any other threads, papers, or links that I missed where this has been covered?
Now Ben points out a need or request for moderated forums. Maybe you could tell us more why you or your colleagues feel that way.
I have also thought about moderators at times, but for different reasons.
- student moderators: to initiate a topic, and take charge of maintaining the discussion.
- community moderators: to share responsibility for certain topics or assign jobs in the organization/group
- energizers: people who will watch an important area/category (not topic) and stimulate it by watching for unanswered threads, or posing questions.
- promoters: a person(s) who will pull in new participants by sending out emails with links to topic threads. A way to inform about discussions and invite new comments.
- summarizers: a role for a person to collect/select/condense useful information into a compact summary for preservation/longivity.
- structured conversations: to lead a conversation in a sequential pattern. In face-to-face reflections, I lead a discussion with objective questions first, followed by subjective ones, then interpretive ones, and finally decisional questions. (Note: this point is more a pedagogical need, and may be served by a new kind of module)