John, have you ever worked online (seriously, with several different conversations/forums, a steady flow of input and having to engage with it) with the standard Moodle forum, maybe in a course or a conference?
Here are a few limiting factors of standard Moodle:
- If you want to reply, you ONLY see the post you are replying to.
- You cannot subscribe to a discussion, only a forum
- There is no collapsed view which gives post summaries, the scroll of death all over again.
- There is no drafts option (so you can go away and finish a post later)
- There is no way to find a post in a forum with a particular attachment
- There is no easy way to get a permalink to point to a post you are trying to respond to
- There is no (easy) way to "show all posts by person X in the forum"
- There is no way for an admin to push a post out to all participants and override an optional subscription
- There is no annotation tool for forums
- There is no export function for teachers who may have assessment needs
- There is no "search this forum" option
If you are unclear what I mean by any of these, just ask. These are both from the student point of view and the teacher point of view. I am working from "What I want to do" (post, mark, keep up with things, dialogue, respond, create new links, debate . . .) to "functionality - needed tools" (simple permalinks to another post, something between "threaded" and "nested" views, subscribe at discussion level etc). I want to use a forum for it's purposes and no more as I listed in my second post. I don't want it to manage Happy Birthday messages, do an analysis of word counts by student, manage automatic reminders of deadlines, or anything. Just the core. My belief: a few of these would vastly improve the power of the forum.
John, you say:
"In my experience, most teachers' first intro to moodle is through the implementation of the forum activity. It is simple to set up, offers few features to confuse the novice user, is bullet proof and easy to conceptualize. I would be worried that forumng would be bit daunting for new users"
Few features (yes) but it is not fair to assume new features = confusion. "Daunting"? Ask those who use it. Have you seen ForumNG?
"Finally, I'm not sure that you can make the case for it simply by re-stating its good features. Sure, it has nice features but it is not a new activity, it would replace an existing one. So, (again just in my opinion) it needs to be head and shoulders above the standard forum in all areas, not just features.
I'm not restating as far as I know. There are no other forum discussions that I know of looking at forum development. I'm trying to cast a view of some attainable features for a forum tool to make it really a 21st century tool, and so that the rest of us without the resouorces of the OU don't have to try to code out own. What I am trying to say is that ForumNG is "Head and Shoulders" above the standard forum. We can either improve the standard forum or add an alternative. I'm another huge admirer but non-groupie of Sam's - and the OU work. Why are they bothering with tyheir own forum? Because I suspect it works better.
Your other four questions: I quote: (1) Is it faster than the standard forum (or better)? (2) Is it as easy to use (or better)? (3) Is it as bug free (or better)? I don't know the answers to these questions, but I think they should be considered, (4) don't you?
- Yes. Thanks to AJAX.
- At lease as easy to use. Buttons are well placed. Descriptions and flow of actions is clear and nice. See the link to the forum to look at if you want to see for yourself.
- Is anything bug free? OU will deploy it for 351,023 students. It is stable.
- Of course.
Hence my question to you about whether you have used forums: I have seen these features in other settings DRASTICALLY improve teaching, administration, learning, save time; that's what Glenis means (moving from a porche (forumNG) back to a Mini minor (regular Moodle forum)). I'm postulating an improved forum as a really beneficial use of programming development time in Moodle, trying to describe something I suspect many people either have not experieinced or don't believe is possible, while trying to make this a relatively simple product.
Ramble again over. I appreciate the opportunity to post here, but I do wonder: is anyone who actually makes decisions actually listening?