I'm raising a philosophical question, here, having to do with the format and layout of M.SE versus the stated goals. Essentially, I am asking the question of whether the format of M.SE is in alignment with its stated goals. If this question sounds a lot like Marshall McLuhan, I won't deny the connection. I don't go so far as to say that the medium is the message, but I will definitely assert that the medium is an extremely important component of the message, and that certain mediums are better-suited to certain messages than others. Singing a song with wedding words to a funeral dirge tune simply doesn't work. So in McLuhan-esque fashion, does the medium of M.SE match its intended message?
For reference, the stated goals of M.SE, so far as I can make out, stem from a few disparate sources. The Tour says that M.SE is a Q&A "site for people studying math at any level and professionals in related fields." On the other hand, from various questions such as Homework questions - avoiding giving a complete solution, and FAQ for math.stackexchange, it is evident that helping students learn is clearly important to M.SE. The second thread there even says that
Providing an answer that doesn't help a student learn is not in the student's own best interest, and if a solution complete enough to be copied verbatim and handed in is given immediately, it will encourage more people to use the site as a free homework service.
For most of the SE sites, what are valued in an answer are completeness, good research, and length. Unfortunately, the self-flagging features of M.SE are continually flagging short answers for the review queues even if the answers are short, helpful hints provided by high-rep, reliable, proven members. I've seen many answers by 100k+ members in the Low Quality Posts review queue! In other words, the kind of answer most helpful to students is the kind of answer auto-flagged by the review queues, thus causing a significant waste of users' time.
However, with regard to long, complete, and researched answers, what is most helpful for students is precisely not that. What is most helpful for students is for them to present what they understand, pinpoint as accurately as they can where they're stuck, and then for someone to come along and help them get unstuck just in that one spot. That is, the student does the heavy lifting, and the helper is the spotter, to use literal weight-lifting terminology. The problem is that this process nearly always requires some give-and-take, some back-and-forth. The format of question and answer, with comments on questions and answers, is not well-suited to this, because that incredibly important information in the comments is a. not terribly visible, particularly when there are a lot of comments, and b. rarely re-incorporated back into the question or answer, because that duplicates the effort of typing up the comment in the first place.
With regard to students using M.SE to cheat and essentially have someone else do their homework for them: it does not appear to me that M.SE has the moderation, technical tools, etc., to curb this one. How do we know whether M.SE is not being massively misused by a large number of students to inflate their grades without gaining true understanding? Again, the format of question and answer will have a tendency to produce rep-seekers who "jump the gun" on a question and just provide a complete answer (I know I've done that!), either because they know that complete, long, well-researched answers get up-voted, or because they are highly interested in the question (obviously, the second reason is totally legit; even the first reason is legit, but it raises the question of what we want to reward). So I ask the question, "What does a site like M.SE reward?" And is that really what we want to reward? Another way of looking at it is this: does this site provide to students what will really help them, or does it attract students who simply want someone else to do their work for them?
Solutions to these problems, if they are acknowledged as problems, would not be terribly easy, I should think. No. 1 might be the easiest: simply have a function in place that makes a post less likely to show up in the Low Quality Posts review queue depending on the rep of the user, and perhaps other factors. Some feature engineering (to use ML language) might be necessary to figure out the most accurate way to trim the review queues down. Numbers 2 and 3 are more systemic issues. It wouldn't be too much of a stretch to say that Numbers 2 and 3 are kind of like saying, "The problem with M.SE is the SE part." N.B., I am not saying that the SE format is bad across the board. Stack Overflow is obviously a tremendous success, even with only a $71\%$ answer rate. I will say this: a more forum-like environment (where you just have one category: posts, and they're all on the same level) can be very effective in curbing the problems I've laid out, if you have good moderators. And maybe the solution to these problems is simply to elect way more moderators than we have now - say, ten times the number we currently have. I don't know.
What are your thoughts?