"In reading about the process of learning outside of a classroom, I cam across this article, by Alan Roper,http://www.educause.edu/EDUCAUSE+Quarterly/EDUCAUSEQuarterlyMagazineVolum/HowStudentsDevelopOnlineLearni/157435
What interested me in particular, for all facets of learning, was this excerpt:
"How Students Develop Online Learning Skills
7. Make connections with fellow students.
The participants in this study had the opportunity to share successful techniques and practices that helped them in developing their online student skills through some open-ended questions. One student mentioned that making a friend (connected with online) helped. Being part of a community of learners is helpful in courses that are taught in-person, and the same holds true for online classes (15.8 percent). One student explained that "it made a huge difference when you had good students in the class." Another student commented,
The experience was enriched greatly by the relationships and interaction with my fellow students. It amazes me how well we got to know each other even though we were often thousands of miles apart and were only virtual classmates.
I learned as much from other students and their experiences as I did from the instructors. I never expected that type of rewarding learning experience in a traditional classroom.
Using online threaded discussions in their course management system, the students can extend classroom discussions beyond the traditional boundaries of physical class time. Students in the online class may get to know one another more from recognizing the writing style and expression of thoughts and ideas rather than by physical attributes. Many students develop meaningful connections with their online classmates that can translate into career networking opportunities later."
This applies of course, to the process of taking virtual classes, but it's interesting to apply the use of threaded conversations to all sorts of discussions. It is a discourse, and can become akin to a chess game. Each move is allowed time for ponderance and deliberation. In some ways, it is a more beneficial learning tool than a classroom usually provides..