Discussion forums (in any virtual learning environments) are so flexible, there’s really no limit to the types of activities you can develop to take advantage of the technology. Here are a few ideas you could try in the new year:
- Create a discussion forum for each week to discuss certain themes and topics – students can discuss topics that they found interesting / challenging with their fellow students and you can also engage with the forums yourself to answer any uncertainties or point students to further resources
- Use the forum as a resource – students can post questions to the forum about a topic and you can use them as a basis for discussion in class or students can answer each other’s questions on the forum.
- Use groups – put your students in to small groups for more in-depth discussions
- Ideas generation – use forums to get students to respond to each other’s ideas so that they can provide constructive criticism
- Interviews – if you have a guest speaker in mind but they can’t physically come to deliver a talk to your students, consider getting students to post questions to the forum and the speaker can answer them in their own time
- Debates – assign different sides of the debate to groups of students and let them discuss and reason their arguments in the forum
- Reading study groups – if you have a set piece of reading for your students, set up a discussion forum for students to discuss and summarise. You can assign questions on the reading and get them to answer them before class
- Pre / post seminar discussions – students can discuss seminar material online in preparation or reflection
- Group project – small groups of students can use forums as an online space to work on a group project. As opposed to email, forums keep track of all discussions and eliminate the chances of missing emails or replies to email, which can quickly go under the radar in a mailbox.
Tips for using forums
- Generally, students won’t engage with a forum unless it is seen as compulsory and / or invaluable to their learning experience. Give them incentives and clear goals for using forums
- Manage expectations – let students know exactly what you expect of them when using forums e.g. how many threads should be posted in to a forum (minimum one post per week or respond to every forum post), the nature of the post (purely academic with citations or a general discussion) etc. The clearer the instructions, the more confident students will feel about using forums.