Threaded Discussion versus Weblog

In the course I'm managing currently for MIT and Merrill Lynch I'm starting to run up against the difficulties of using a weblog to handle class discussion. We had to choose what should be more prominent – comments from the participants or the posts from the Learning Director and Teaching Assistant. We're using a 3-column layout – static documents like participant biographies and syllabus and schedules on the left, dynamic lists of recent posts and comments on the right. In the middle we started with the five most recent posts with the plan of excerpting and linking to the comments when we wantto be sure they get read. We're also emailing out the posts by cutting and pasting into a nicely designed Outlook template instead of the bare bones MT notification.
Now that the discussion has gotten rolling, we want to give more prominence to the comments themselves. So how do we do that without pushing the most recent post too low on the page? I just start excerpting the most recent comment and putting at the top of the center column. I have to do this manually becuase MT has no CommentExcerpt tag that works and the comments themselves are too long to include in their entirety. This has cuased problems also in the dynamic lists of comments. On the main page I can list the most recent comments on the whole weblog. But on an individual archive page and I can only list the most recent comments for that post.
So my as yet unempirical observations show there seems to be a core group who have caught on to the weblog and are checking it frequently. Then there's a large group who rely on the emails.
The dilemma comes in how the thread of the discussion gets divided across multiple posts. We could do subsequent posts in a particular thread as comments but it would then seem redundant to quote myself in the digest post that gets emailed to everyone.

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