The Complexity of Online Discussion
This paper reports on a study that examined the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) discussion forum. The study’s purpose was to observe emergent phenomena within this discussion forum. Additionally, the study provided an assessment of these emergent phenomena and their effects on the overall survival and sustainability of this discussion forum. Examinations of participation, discussion topics, and discussion content were examined through the lens of complexity theory. Through this lens, emergent behaviors could be observed that indicated the NASPE forum had undergone extraordinary changes over the course of its operation. These changes included a dramatic drop off in participation, striking shifts in discussion topics, and fluctuating trends in discussion content. Overall, data demonstrated that this discussion forum underwent evolutionary adaptations in order to survive. These adaptations, however, were found to promote counterproductive discussions as a cost of survival. The study provides a cautionary tale of the application of discussion forums in physical education, and the need for continued examination and careful implementation of this technology.
MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching