Forums for learning 1

What is a forum, and how does it work?

I was struck recently, while working with some new clients, by the fact that they didn’t understand how to use forums, or the value of them.

That’s interesting, and maybe the Facebook, Twitter, Instagram type communication has in some way leap-frogged the use of forums in people’s minds? Forums, discussions boards, bulletin boards, … this may all sound like ‘old technology’ to some? Or maybe given the apps above, and the mobile communication revolution, maybe they just don’t “know about” forums, and how useful they can be in a learning context?

So, I’m going to start a series of posts all about forums!

Gosh, it almost feels like repeating a conversation from 10 years ago?

So let’s just start with a simple definition:

“Online forums (often called discussion board, message boards, or bulletin boards) enable users of a website to interact with each other by exchanging knowledge, tips, and ideas, related to a specific theme.”

In our context, as educators, the website is usually our Learning Management System, and the forums contain threads, relating to topics within the course content.

Of course there can be a great variety of forums, both in style and use.

Some could be ‘help forums’ – with the expectation that learners could post questions, and get answers (either from the teacher, or other learners).

Other forums may be tightly focussed on course topics, with the teacher managing the discussions.

It could be that some forums are for ‘learners only’ and the teacher does not control the discussions – this might be a “coffee bar” type location.

So, there is no single forum type, and no single application of what a forum will be.

In my best post, I’ll start to define the different types of forums a little more tightly, and move on to discussing the benefits of each. After that, I’m thinking of looking at the way we can use forums successfully, and then move into some Moodle specific tips and ideas.

Stay tuned!

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Stuart Mealor

Stuart is interested in all things e-learning, with specific interests in Moodle, e-learning strategy, and business development. His experience in education over 30 years, MBA in International Business, and knowledge of e-learning systems implementation, together with graphic design background, give him a unique skill set for e-learning projects.

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