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Top Ten Educational Advantages NowComment online discussion

Top Ten Educational Advantages of Online Discussion

(NowComment® White Paper — Fall 2012)

There are many reasons why online discussion of texts using NowComment is extremely effective at intellectually engaging students:

NowComment Online Discussion

Face-to-Face Discussion

General Differences

A lot of information is shared (text and pictures are visual, “high bandwidth”).

Relatively little information shared (speech is low bandwidth).

Multiple simultaneous conversations; students can comment on whatever they find interesting (including tangential observations) without interrupting other conversations.

There's only one conversation, which won't always touch on what a given student finds most interesting. Tangents can derail the current conversation.

No need to split attention for notes; full discussion transcript remains accessible for student review and teacher evaluation.

Students and Instructors must juggle listening and note-taking; retention is constrained by imperfect memory and note-taking ability.

One upload gives the class ongoing access to both the document and discussion transcript.

Time and expense of distributing paper copies (which students often lose or don’t bring).

Online discussion is a fresh format that leverages students' comfort, facility, and enjoyment of online and social media.

A familiar but not exciting format.

Overcomes Time Constraints

Opportunity to make as many comments (subject to Instructor’s limits) as each person thinks is important, because making com­ments doesn't take time away from others.

Only time for a few comments; some students get no turn to speak, many don't get to ex­press thoughts they feel are important.

Opportunity for more developed, detailed, and nuanced comments; long comments don't take time away from others.

There's usually no time to fully communicate complex ideas, explore tangential themes, etc.

Top Ten Educational Advantages of Online Discussion

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NowComment Online Discussion

Face-to-Face Discussion

Comfortable Online Social Context

Students can take time to think through and fully express their thoughts; no one is ever interrupted.

A few extroverts can dominate the conversation, sometimes interrupting others; other students have to speak up quickly or risk losing their turn, even if their ideas aren't fully formed. Shy students rarely participate.

Students can intellectually engage with each other to explore in depth (i.e. multiple back-and-forths) similar or divergent perspectives, related ideas, interesting implications.

Few chances to talk through differing perspectives, rarely able to ask follow-up questions or pose challenges.

Writing is done in private, often from home or other “safe” environment. Students can respond to whichever comments they choose.

Relatively high social pressure (all eyes on the speaker). The instructor and/or each student's verbal assertive­ness determine who gets to respond to which comments.

New Technology, New Options

With NowComment you can choose to hide a document's comments until a certain date and time, to minimize peer influence/pressure.

Inescapable influence or pressure of previously voiced comments in class discussions.

Sort and tag comments, skim summaries, reply privately, include videos and images.


NowComment is very well suited to be the primary discussion format for distance learning. More commonly, it’s used in hybrid/blended classes to complement face-to-face discussion, lectures, and other traditional methods, e.g.:

  • leverage online comments as organic starting points for face-to-face discussion
  • assign online commenting to see what students understand before your lecture
  • use online discussion to reinforce concepts after a lecture

Other NowComment educational resources (e.g. Instructor feedback, comparisons to other tools) are at:

For more information please contact:  [email protected]  or  @nowcomment

NowComment is a project of public interest group LLC.

DMU Timestamp: September 16, 2022 14:14

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Quickstart: Commenting and Sharing

How to Comment
  • Click icons on the left to see existing comments.
  • Desktop/Laptop: double-click any text, highlight a section of an image, or add a comment while a video is playing to start a new conversation.
    Tablet/Phone: single click then click on the "Start One" link (look right or below).
  • Click "Reply" on a comment to join the conversation.
How to Share Documents
  1. "Upload" a new document.
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