When most people think of Coursera, they think about the video lectures,
the quizzes,and the peer-graded assignments. But there is another part which we
think is equally important: the discussion forums. That’s where students debate
what they’ve learnt in class, where instructors see what creative things their
students have done on the side, where community TAs help guide students through
problems, and where students give feedback about improving the platform and course.
We’ve been collecting feedback from students and instructors about the forums,
and finally found the time to start addressing that feedback. To start with, we
realized that we want to be able to iterate quickly on our forums in the future,
so we’ve re-written the forum codebase to use a more modern architecture and
web technologies (it’s now a Backbone single-page web app, for the techies out there).
Along with that re-writing, we’ve addressed some of the top usability concerns.
Here’s a run-down of the changes you might notice:
- When you post, comment or vote, the page will not reload and you will
not lose your place by going to the top of the page.
- You will be able to undo votes and vote in the opposite direction.
- You will be able to link to specific posts or comments, not just the whole thread.
If you click the timestamp on a post or comment, your window URL will change to
the permalink for that post and you can share that URL.
- Forum notification emails will link to specific posts/comments, not
just the whole thread, and the comment being linked to will be highlighted.
- The threads are no longer paginated, but instead use “infinite loading”, so that you can scroll
up or down to load earlier/later posts in the thread.
- The original poster will now be able to edit the title of his/her thread without deleting it.
- The post labels (pinned, approved, etc) now use a yellow/red color scheme.
- Forum posts are now composed using a Wysiwyg editor instead of the Markdown editor,
so the preview is the same as when you’re typing it. The wysiwig editor includes options for inserting
links, code, images, and MathJax.
- When creating a new thread, you can change the subforum it will be posted in.
- We added a way for students to see their own forum activity as well as see other students’ (non-anonymous) activities. To view the forum activity for another student, you can click on their name in bylines in the forum. To view your own activity, click “View your latest activity” from main forum page. (See screenshot.)
We will start to roll out the new forums to classes this week, so you should all
see it quite soon. We look forward to continuing to iterate on the forums, like
giving you ways to follow eachother’s posts, better subscription options,
a better dashboard of the posts you care about, and forums embedded in other parts
of the class experience.
We love seeing what all of you post in the forums. Thank you for all of your feedback in making forum functionalities more connected and dynamic.