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  • Writer's pictureYevgen Y

Using Forums in Course Design

Updated: Apr 9, 2018

Post from February 19, 2018

I want to talk about use of forums in distance education in general and touch on the types of forums that are used in #Moodle LMS to help you design your course interactions with their abilities in mind.

A #forum consists of discussion topics and replies and enables participants to communicate online using text. Forums are crucial components of learning at distance because they help create atmosphere of community in your courses, and allows peer-to-peer learning that is important part of "constructivist" learning.

When are forums useful?

  • As a group formation and bonding “check-in” space at the beginning of a course

  • Aligning forum discussions with course outcomes to ensure transfer of knowledge

  • Sharing files of different media with others

  • Using Forums as presentation board

  • For mutual support and/or collaborative learning in group assignments

  • When there is a need to record contributions or thought processes for evaluation

Discussion forums can be used in any types of course delivery: paced group study, continuous enrollments and individualized study. Although most beneficial use of forums is in a paced environment. To get full benefits of forums, teachers should monitor, moderate, and assess progress of students regularly. It is teachers' responsibility to ensure that discussions are "flowing" towards the desired outcome, stays on topic, and stimulate conversation between peers.

Types of forums in Moodle

To understand more how forums can be used in online courses below is a description of the types of the forums available for you in Moodle (from Moodle Help files):

  • A single simple discussion - A single discussion topic which everyone can reply to (cannot be used with separate groups);

  • Standard forum for general use - An open forum where any one can start a new discussion at any time, and in which discussion topics are displayed on one page with "Discuss this topic" links. This is the best general-purpose forum;

  • Each person posts one discussion - Each student can post exactly one new discussion topic, which everyone can then reply to. This is useful when you want each student to start a discussion about their examples to the week's topic applications (for example), and everyone else responds to these;

  • Q And A Forum - The Q & A forum requires students to post their perspectives before viewing other students' postings. After the initial posting, students can view and respond to others' postings. This feature allows equal initial posting opportunity among all students, thus encouraging original and independent thinking.

  • Standard forum displayed in a blog-like format - An open forum where anyone can start a new discussion at any time, and in which discussion topics are displayed on one page with "Discuss this topic" links;

  • News Forum - This forum usually comes with the course set up, it does not allow replies from students.

Teachers will monitor students activities through day-to-day postings but they also can get access to the all students postings through the individual profiles of students. Note: that forums can be considered as high load activity on Teachers as they require time for moderating, reading, and replying to student posts. This time might be not limited to the 'class' time as in traditional 'face-to-face' classes but much more beneficial for students' learning as it will allow them to spend as much time as they need to progress through the forums. You might also be aware that in a big classes it will be beneficial to divide students into groups to avoid load of information they must to process, or sometimes bring groups of students together to show-case their work.

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