Reading Between the Lines: Understanding the Role of Latent Content in the Analysis of Online Asynchronous Discussions

Elizabeth Murphy, International Journal of Instructional Technology, Distance Learning, Jun 21, 2005
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Prompted by a discussion on DEOS the other day I have been pondering the difference between traditional distance learning, as advanced by people like Keegan and Moore, and online learning. If I had to put it in a nutshell, I would say that it is the difference between communications theory and network theory, the difference between structured symbolic representations and unstructured subsymbolic reflections. It has made me more sensitive to the theoretical foundations of works such as this article, which I would place squarely within the traditional context, analyzing as it does latent content in message transcripts as a means to improve learning outcomes. It's quite a good article, and people will enjoy reading it. But I look at it - today, at least - and ask myself, what do these kinds of questions even look like in the post-structuralist world?
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