Is a forum really the best platform for a learning community?

I love this distinction!

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Well, thank you all for the responses! I feel overwhelmed! :dizzy_face: :dizzy_face: :dizzy_face:

Completly agree.

I bet that those posting questions are impressed with the knowledge and wisdom that is expressed in answers to their questions.

In reality most people replying look stuff up on Google .................

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Ha ha, you've discovered my secret. :slight_smile:

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This is good and meaningful topics. I think lot of people learned lot of from forum at least I am.
I am not a professional programmer, may post some stupid topic some time, some times the post may just need one word or a very short clue from a experienced or even a inexperienced but met the same situation.
I do think all level people can get help, even the professional programmer may just have a temporarily forget, may just lost in a place who is good at.
Make some rules is good for all. But really some times we don't need mechanically entangled with rules while ignoring the core of some small problems that can be solved at easy.

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I have not used ZOOM but this might be something to consider using.

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I'll just devise my own system and choose threads carefully then. Maybe if there are 3 or more members actively responding to a "help needed" post, the I would not participate in order to not overwhelm the OP. Also I will remind OP of important things me/others asked but have not received while refraining myself from pointing out other important things. Maybe for those thread I do decide to respond, give a gentle reminder if the OP hasn't engaged for days.

I find the best use of this forum for learning is the use of its database. The search feature works great. I see there's an advanced option that can slim results down quite a bit (probably to 0), but its worth a try...

The children now love luxury ; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households.

Socrates (469–399 B.C.)

I think young folks have been the same for century's. A young person gets excited and asks a question not thinking the receiver of that question has no idea what the youth is talking about.
A friend son asked me a question some time ago with just that lack of fully explaining the problem. He was a young man who at that time had not learned how to ask a question. Once he was reminded I couldn't the answer with the amount of information supplied he immediately understood. A few years later he scored 1586 on his SATs.

I've been in electronics for decades and I still find writing down what I was thinking requires me to think about the topic more thoroughly and realize there were items I didn't think through. I'm sure this is common for most folks asking questions. Some due to lack of knowledge cannot fully explain their situation.

I also find reading through these forums many folks of various ages are building things without a solid understanding of processors or electronics. Often some of the ideas are really creative. But they often succeed with help from the forum members and perhaps others.

So is this the "best" platform for a learning community" I don't know but I believe outside a classroom it is the best there is.

Also note, teaching as you've described was not / is not a goal of the forum. The goal is to share ideas and knowledge. I've on many occasion asked questions. Sometimes there is something I don't know, sometimes its something I just failed to see (probably from staring for the code too long).

we all do what we can to give advice and wish to see those younger people

I don't know about you but I heard plenty of advice from elders when I was young. Most of it I ignored. Was that good or bad? Can't say, often youth successfully creates things that elders said was a folly and advised against.

IMHO humans as we know them have been on earth for around 200,000 years. I don't see any significant basic behaviors changing in a generation. Now technologies and advancements have created different opportunities and obstacles but I think basic human behaviors do not change significantly.

If the OP is required to respond to EACH reply, then maybe they WILL read more carefully.

Tis human nature. I don't think it has any relationship to age. Some people don't like the truth if it is inconvenient. Some don't have the time or are very busy with life. Some are just A***holes. Some ready every word and thank you for your help.

In addition, sometimes after asking a question the forum thread explodes and I could see an OP afraid to chime in after that.

As I said just my humble opinion.......


Re: superiority of in person or video chat approaches.

This might be better for the learners you are addressing at that moment, but you lose the magic multiplier effect that comes with sharing information publicly in a persistent, searchable form. The effort you make to help that one person will most likely help others with the same question in the years to come as they find that information in their search results.

We don't get a lot of feedback to understand how significant this impact is, but Discourse gives a little more of it than the view count that was all provided by the old forum software. I've been pleased to see old posts of mine getting hearts, high link visit counts, and references from other posts.

In the end, even the original target of the information may benefit from having a persistent record they can reference later. The team I work with uses Zoom extensively and I can't count the number of times I have wished I could refer back to some discussion that has been lost forever.


I have been surprised by the number of people I meet at shows, who once they know who I am here have thanked me for some help that got them out of a mess. Almost universally these people have not asked me directly but read the replies I gave to others. So this idea of a continuous and growing form of reference is real and does work.


40 years back I taught electronics. A thing I learned from teaching is that the instructor can see in the students eyes if he gets it. I also learned that you have to be able to teach visual learners, hands on learners, textual learners...

the PTB tried to get us to teach a video camera. the theory was, you teach the camera, students watch the video, the students learned. the instructors tried to tell the PTB that the camera can't see the students facial expression when they go off the rails. the video can't shift gears and try another approach. watching the video again will not help a guy who did not get it the first time. repeating a lesson with a hole in the information just wastes time. the video would have been what we now call an NPC, if we made it.

proper teaching requires a real teacher, with one on one time with motivated students.

what a forum is good for is kicking loose logjams. someone gets hung up on something that is not explained well and needs someone who came before and figured it out to get them past the hangup.


That sounds really nice! I am concerned with how much junk information there is online but if we do better and close more loops on the forum, then more useful information will persist. This gives me more hope.

Regarding zoom and one-on-one, I think it's OK if it's teacher-student because that's what the student expect, some one-on-one real-time interaction. It's a luxury because both the teacher and student must have time to meet besides the cost of education. I have an entire introductory course on youtube. All pre-recorded, edited and some re-recorded for good quality. I wish I could do this with arduino but I feel like I should go by a textbook to be systematic. When I'm teaching, I can be quite systematic because that's how I learned, in class and reading textbooks. I've read books on arduino and other things but those books aren't textbooks so they aren't systematic enough. Where they lack, I read online and rely on my prior knowledge (some from textbooks). Maybe that kind of arduino video lectures are the job of an ECE professor, not me. You know, 50 hour-long lectures to go through the introduction to microcontrollers using arduino and atmega328p as examples.

What an interesting topic.

Can you tell us -- as an educator, how do you advise pupils to utilize the Arduino forums?

Sometimes it is clear the OP is seeking an easy gift wrapped solution to a class assignment. Does providing such an answer sabotage the teacher's efforts?

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it bypasses the students efforts. teaching is the art of facilitating learning. the student learns, the teacher guides. the student must put effort into learning. if he does not, he learns the test, not the subject.

as a former instructor, if I think someone is trying to evade a homework assignment, I will give the shortest possible answer:

search term: port D; bit manipulation

as noted above, kick loose a logjam. don't build a raft.


No, of course not. The ideal learning environment is probably a classroom with an enthusiastic professor, a helpful TA, a well-equipped lab, and a dozen or two classmates each of which have some expertise in some subset of the material you're trying to learn. (which is rare, alas, even at very expensive universities.)

As a platform, a forum is pretty good. Or CAN be pretty good. I think the Arduino forum is quite good. AVRFreaks is good. EEVBlog is good. PICList is good (even though it's a mailing list.) ARM Community Form, TI vendor forums, Microchip Forum... Not so good.

The searchable archive is very important.

But I think the key element is collaborative discussions. When someone asks a question, stays engaged enough to get their problem solved, and spurs side-discussions that delve deeper-than-necessary into details and related issues. Maybe the OP doesn't get any additional value from that (but they might), but ... other people reading the topic might. I know I do.

This is what I don't see very often on vendor forums. Someone will ask a question, someone else will answer, and that's frequently the end of it. BORING!

There's a write-up somewhere on "how to ask good questions." I think it's incorporated somewhat in the "read this first" pages here (not that people read those. :frowning: ) I think there needs to be additional material on how to sustain a conversation. (starting with "come back and check whether there are answers to your question, even if you found an answer somewhere else.) That's what happens in an ideal classroom.

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I would tell my students to do their best to describe their questions and respect the members on the arduino forum. To be honest, it's not easy to get the engineering and hard science students to ask questions. They are used to be the best students among their peers and aren't used to seeking help. If they can learn how to formulate a proper question on the forum, I'm happy for them.

I may not be able to tell if they just had their work done for them by forum members. I don't often teach arduino stuff. Only every other year when I teach electronics and mostly as tutorials for them to follow and hoping they get interested, instead of asking them to do the work.

You may not know this if you didn't recently graduate from college, but so many science and even some engineering degrees don't have much computer programming requirements so students in these degrees are not comfortable or right out afraid of coding. It's the reality of regional universities. It's such an important skill for them but the degree program requirements are very behind.

Very few science and non-ECE engineering faculty members are including programming in their courses. It's a hard sell. You know it's important but there aren't any classes in these degrees with programming as prerequisites so students don't think programming as important. They'll take a programming course, too little too late to benefit from it or too little too early and forget all about it.

Well, if I do get to teach more solid programming elements in some scientific computing course, I would make a requirement to occasionally ask students to present their code in class and everyone gets a chance to do so. They need to understand what they turn in. I don't mind if they get their understanding outside the class as long as they understand.

It is now almost 20 years since I taught at a University. In my latter years they introduced "student feedback". One piece of feedback I got was "he is very enthusiastic about his subject, but he expects us to be enthusiastic about it as well". - I'll take that.

The big problem is trying to teach and diagnose problems when the student hasn't got access to test equipment, not even a voltmeter. Any student who has ever used an oscilloscope doesn't need to be told about floating inputs and lack of ground connections, because it is actually jumps out at them if they want to make a measurement. Just let them touch an oscilloscope input and they can see the hundreds of volts their body can pick up.

In the UK attitudes in students changes once we introduced fees. The attitude was - well I have paid my fees you have to explain it so I can understand. The problem being that they were not willing to put in any effort in order to learn. There was no acknowledgment that some things are inherently hard to understand.

This applies doubly so ( I was told ) for first year medical students. They are devastated if they have to face a reset exam, as to date they have sailed through everything with little effort.

So no a forum is not the "best" way to learn, but don't let the best be the enemy of the good or even adequate. They can hide their perceived weakness and lack of knowledge behind the anonymity of silly names. And those who want to learn can.

There is a mistaken belief that education is all about knowing stuff, where it is really about learning to think, and knowing what to do, when you don't know what to do.


In a face-to-face conversation, it's more symmetrical in terms of feeling responsible to respond or feeling guilty not to. If you ask, "Hey, did you manage to get that problem solved?" and the other party doesn't respond, then it's very rude of them. But on a forum, you may ask, but they may not respond. It's asymmetrical. There is little responsibility or feeling of guilt to just abandon a thread.

"A warm face, slammed into cold bullocks", as they would say it in Chinese. Guess you set your expectations low so you don't feel bad about abandoned threads, and time you wasted is just part of the volunteering work. That can work for me.

Oh, BTW, our university has recently got a system in place to automatically email instructors to evaluate certain students how they are doing several times during a semester, to help keep students on track. It's kind of an academic wellness program. I wonder if there can be an option to summarize the number of unsolved posts a person started and responded to, so the person gets reminded not to leave too many threads unsolved (if you're asking) or to participate in too many open threads (as helper).

I have responded to ‘obviously’ beginner posts over the years with a suggestion to see if they could find a local ‘buddy’ to act as a mentor.

To and fro discussions here can introduce people that have very little idea what they’re doing, but may be good communicators.

If you can find someone that you can form a basic friendship with, you’ll discover soon enough if they know more than you, and can tackle problems together while you find your own skill set.

Two heads are better than one.

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