Online social spaces, where users can exchange information, opinions and resources, have achieved wide popularity and are gaining attention in many research fields, including education. Their actual potential support to learning, however, still requires investigation, especially because portals can widely differ as concerns purpose and internal structure. This paper aims to contribute in this respect, by concentrating on question answering, a kind of social space not yet widely discussed in education. We analyzed a small corpus of posts from the Languages section of Yahoo! Answers Italy, checking if the questions reveal some inclination to learning or just the desire to obtain a service and if the answers provided by the community members can be considered as reliable sources of knowledge. Our analysis highlights the presence of a variety of question/answer types, from mere information exchange or help for task completion, up to language-related questions prompting valuable short lessons. The quality of answers may widely vary as concerns pertinence, correctness and richness of supporting elements. We found a high number of purely task-oriented questions and answers, but also a higher number of learning-oriented questions and correct, informative answers. This suggests that this kind of social space actually has valuable potential for informal learning.
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