I think the author has engaged in an interesting discussion, even if I think that the study she publishes here has some serious flaws. The proposition advanced is that feedback will improve online discussions. This proposition is considered from with the context of 'feedback theory' as found within the more general context of systems theory. "Put simply, a system has interacting parts and feedback provides information to those parts in ways that maintain the system." Well and good, but there are mechanisms - back propagation, for example - where feedback does not operate as though it were pressing on little causal levers. In this paper, the feedback consists of 'rewards' - points given for quality contributions. And "it appears that these rewards did not affect students' motivation to prepare good postings." Well, no. More likely, as she says, "perhaps online discussions such as these serve multiple missions – to share knowledge and to discuss ideas -- but also to learn how to think like a graduate student (or a college student or major in the discipline) as well as how to engage others in complicated topics online." That requires a complex understanding of 'good' - and a complex understanding of 'feedback'. Via Online Universities Weblog.
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