## Classroom Discourse

### The objective

Explore the use of open source forum software to facilitate online discourse outside the traditional classroom.

### My mathematical background

• Ph.D in Mathematics 1994 from Ohio State THE
Ohio State
University
• Joined the UNCA Mathematics faculty in 1997
• First sci.math contributions in 1994
• StackExchange participant for six years

### My computer background

• Long time programmer in many languages including: Javascript, Python, and C
• Employed as a software developer for three years at Wolfram Research
• Set up first webpage in 1994
• Started using my own webserver five years ago,
mainly so I could create online activities.

## Stack Exchange

A network of online discussion forums on a wide variety of subjects

## Math.StackExchange

### Some StackCode

Here's another interesting example:
We can use the substitution $u=x^k$ to show that
$$\int_0^{\infty} \frac{\sin(x^k)}{x}\,dx = \frac{1}{k}\int_0^{\infty} \frac{\sin(u)}{u}\,du.$$
Thus, the known result that
$$\int_0^{\infty} \frac{\sin(x)}{x}\,dx = \frac{\pi}{2},$$
yields
$$\int_0^{\infty} \frac{\sin(x^k)}{x}\,dx = \frac{\pi}{2k}.$$


### Potential benefits for a college student particpating in Math.StackExchange

• The obvious - as a Q&A resource
• An introduction to modern tech tools, like
• LaTeX snippets - like $e^{-x^2}$
• markdown
• graphing software
• Exposure to online, academic discourse?
• It's a fun distraction!

### But...

There are issues.
In particular, it can be an intimidating resource for beginning users.

### Potential hazards for a college student

• Exposure to online, academic discourse!
• Some users can be, uhm - gruff(?)
• The societal norms are not immediately evident
• It's a colossal waste of time!

## So why not set up your own?

### Options

There's quite a bit of open source Q&A software.
I've used

## Why Discourse?

• Very slick and current
• Yet, easier to set up than Askbot
• Less gamified - uses trust levels, rather than points

### The API

Discourse has a complete API that allows you to automate many tasks - particularly, surrounding grading.

### On the other hand

• Too slick?
• Quite a challenge to archive
• Hard to modify

### Tools to be comfortable with (if you're setting up Discourse yourself)

• The Unix command line
• Setting up and maintaining a webserver
• Interfacing an email service (like Mailgun)
• Persistance

## Why Vanilla Forums?

• Much easier to set up
• Reclaim hosting offers a one-click set up
• Still full featured
• Also has an API, though I haven't explored it as fully.

### Lessons

• Impact on student learning seems very positive
• Usage should impact student grades, just a bit
• Do minimize gamification, though
• Instructor participation is key