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Toward an Understanding of How Threads Die in Asynchronous Computer Conferences

Journal of the Learning Sciences Volume 14, Number 4, ISSN 1050-8406


Previous computer conferencing research has been concerned with the organizational, technical, social, and motivational factors that support and sustain online interaction. This article studies online interaction from a different perspective. Rather than analyze the processes that sustain discourse, the following research examines how and why discussions shut down. A computer simulation of asynchronous threaded interaction suggests that certain common online habits, when practiced by many people, can adversely affect the lifespan of some threads. Specifically, the widespread practice of focusing attention on unread notes during computer conferencing sessions can produce a starvation condition that hastens the death of some threads and reduces the likelihood that inactive threads will become active again. The longevity of a thread, therefore, is partially affected by the kinds of routines that online participants follow when they use a computer conferencing interface. The educational implications of this finding are discussed, and strategies are presented for limiting adverse educational effects.


Hewitt, J. (2005). Toward an Understanding of How Threads Die in Asynchronous Computer Conferences. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 14(4), 567-589. Retrieved November 29, 2021 from .

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