I am a big fan of the impact of collaborative and connected learning and favour the use of discussion forums in my Moodle courses. I would like to share with you some of the strategies I implement to make the best use of discussion forums to enhance connections and collaborations between learners.
Use as a starting point
Be sure to build in a specific discussion forum in each segment or ‘topic’ of your course to enable your learners to enhance their connected learning with each other. You might pose questions in the forum related to the topic, for the learners to research and answer as individuals or groups. You may want to enable the Ratings for Posts to encourage ‘thinking outside the square’ and to reward innovation.
Use scaffolding to extend the learning
Above all, scaffold the learning, with your direct input into the threaded conversations. Create specific replies to individuals to validate their posts and mentor their advancement to another level of response. If the discussion is set for a specific period, send reminders and be sure to summarise at the end of that time – including highlights from individuals.
Provide opportunities for socialisation
Why not provide other social forums in which the learners can find out more about each other or ask their Frequently Asked Questions for anyone to answer.
Create dynamic content
You can create more dynamic content within your forum posts with images or embedded videos and engage your learner audience with more colour, movement and purpose. Remember to keep the content of each post brief and to the point and to instruct the learner on what they are required to do in response.
Match the forum type to the purpose
Select the type of forum that will be the most appropriate for the topic of learning. Moodle 2.8 has five types of forums available:
- A single simple discussion
- Each person posts one discussion
- Standard forum for general use
- Question and Answer forum
- Standard forum displayed in blog-like format
For an overview of these and more details on their purpose, view the Using Forum Moodle Documentation.
Do’s and Don’ts
Here’s a set of Do’s and Don’ts for successful discussion forum management by the teacher.
|Provide a meaningful title for the posting||Add too many forums in any one topic|
|Write the content clearly for ease of reading||Overuse formatting within the post, keep it simple|
|Provide instructions on how to respond||Confuse with too many instructions|
|Guide interaction between learners||Assume the learner knows how to respond|
|Moderate the threaded conversations||Leave the conversation to stagnate|
|Summarise the thread at the end of the topic||Forget to notify learners of forum requirements|
Here’s a set of Do’s and Don’ts for successful discussion forum contribution by the learner.
|Respond to the specific questions in the post||Respond with irrelevant or misleading posts|
|Be polite and meaningful in your responses||Criticise the style of postings from other learners|
|Use appropriate language||Use profanities or other inappropriate language|
|Be original and include your own opinions||Copy another person’s response or plagiarise|
|Add images where relevant and appropriate||Overuse imagery or video content|
|Read the posts of others and reply||Forget to respond in forums promptly|
Further references and guides for E-tivities and E-moderation are located in the work of Dr Gilly Salmon, noted for her design of the 5 Stage Model of learning. By working through these five stages, the online teacher can see the benefits of using discussion forums in a sequential and structured manner.