Interactive activities (interactivities) in online courses provide the learner with opportunities of active and connected learning. Without them, the experience of online learning becomes, self-paced and solitary. While both of these are valid methods of providing instruction, it is the interactive model that will appeal most to those looking for social, collaborative and connected learning!
Discussion forums have long been the core of anytime communication tools in learning management systems and now feature as the backbone of social media connections. Real time communication between learners is also an integral element of a successful connected learning environment. However, when we add into the mix the challenges of time zone differences and personal time available, then the instructional designer is wise to include the use of anytime discussion forums.
In a Moodle environment we now have a choice of the type of discussion forums that can be integrated into the course. The latest features built into the functionality of forums in Moodle 2.8 provides exciting and timely additions to the suite of tools and the subject of my article today.
What does the new discussion forum enable?
New Moodle 2.8 forum enhancements include:
- Email replies to forum posts
- Better navigation through threads
- Subscribe to individual discussions.
I will be looking at the first two of these.
Email replies to forum posts
The first new function is the ability to reply to the forum posting directly from your email. This feature must be enabled by the course administrator in the settings for Moodle course. The process for the teacher or the learner is as follows:
- Select the Reply by email link in the email
- Reply using the email address provided
- You should receive an email saying your reply has been successfully posted
- Your post now appears in the forum.
Full instructions can be found in the Using Forum Moodle 2.8 documentation.
This new function enhances the course interactions by making it much easier to keep the conversation dynamic and flowing. The learner is far more likely to reply if they can do so directly from their email. This saves the extra step of returning to the online course itself, in order to reply to the discussion forum postings. Speedy one click responses will suit the busy student on the move – they will be able to reply to postings quickly and easily from their mobile devices.
Better navigation through threads
The second new function of forums in Moodle 2.8 is the ability to move between forum threads whilst in the forum. No need to jump out of one conversation in order to get to the next thread of conversation in another. I really like this feature – it has the potential for speeding up my responses to learners in a suite of threaded conversations.
If you are designing your Moodle course for successful communications, then you will find these two new forum features, to be of great benefit to you and your learners. You may also find this supporting article useful – Using Forums to Engage Learners.