How To Use Forums In eLearning
Over 3 billion people actively use the internet, which is almost half of the world’s population, and roughly 70% have a social media account. This speaks volumes about social interactions in our tech-centric world. More and more people are turning to the internet to reach out to stay updated and in-touch. As eLearning professionals, we have the opportunity to tap into this need for virtual interaction by using online forums in our eLearning course design. Here are some top tips for using forums in eLearning experiences.
- Choose the ideal platform.
Before you begin developing your instructional strategy in order to include forums in eLearning, you will have to decide which online forum you are going to use. If you want to post articles then ask your learners to comment on the posts, or even create posts of their own, then a blog may be the answer. On the other hand, if you want to stick to shorter responses and have more control over the online discussions, then a threaded message board could be the ideal solution. When choosing an online platform, think about the learning objectives of the eLearning course and the needs of your audience. If they are a bit reluctant to join the online discussion, consider a social media platform that they are already familiar with. For example, you can create Google, LinkedIn, or Facebook groups and invite your learners to become members.
- Set the ground rules beforehand.
They key to running successful forums in eLearning is setting expectations and guidelines in advance. Learners must know their role in the online forums, as well as how they should behave when interacting with their peers. How often are they expected to post and who will be given access to the thread? Can they start their own discussion by creating a new post? Will the instructor need to check-in on the online discussion from time to time, or are you handing the reigns over to your learners? Also, let them know what is appropriate and what the consequences are for posting disrespectful commentary.
- Plant the idea then watch it grow.
Forums give your audience a place to share their ideas and explore the subject matter outside of the traditional eLearning environment. As such, the facilitator’s presence should be minimal if you are trying to encourage peer-based collaboration. Guide the online discussion by posting a question, thought, or idea, then let them take over. Monitor the conversation to ensure that it stays on-topic, but give your learners the opportunity to share their skills and insights with each other without interruption. When you feel as though the current idea has been thoroughly examined, post a new idea to get the online discussion flowing again.
- Create smaller groups for reluctant learners.
Even though many learners use technology on a daily basis, some of them may still be reluctant to share their thoughts and experiences in a public forum. In these cases, it may be beneficial to divide the class into smaller groups of 5 to 10 learners and only allow members of the group to see the discussion thread. This encourage hesitant learners to engage in the online discussion without feeling as though they are being judged, which leads to more active participation overall. If you notice that specific learners are still not interacting with their peers on the forum, then reach out to them privately and address their concerns.
- Link to interactive resources.
Online forums typically lack that all-important multimedia element. However, you can add that in by including links to YouTube videos, articles, and online scenarios, that will engage and inspire your learners. You can also link back to learning materials you’ve created, such as a page within the eLearning course or an eLearning assessment, so that your learners can refresh their memory and test their progress. Just make sure that the links you provide are relevant to the conversation. If not, then create a new thread where they can share their thoughts about the multimedia presentation of the eLearning course material. This helps to keep each thread focused and avoids any confusion.
- Create a posting schedule.
Many autonomous learners may procrastinate about posting if they aren’t given an online forum schedule. For example, you can ask them to create at least one post or comment by every Sunday. Keep in mind that online learners have to fit this online learning activity into their training schedule. So, give them ample time to post and give a virtual nudge to those who haven’t posted by the end of the week. It may be wise to give them a schedule in advance and let them know what you’ll be discussing each week. This gives them the chance to work the posts into their schedule, as well as brainstorm their ideas for the specific topics.
- Know the many uses of online forums.
Online forums aren’t just for peer-to-peer discussion. They can also provide learners with the support they need from their instructors or tutors, and keep them up-to-date with the latest news about the online course. For example, if you need to change the time of the upcoming live event, simply login to the forum and post a notification. Do some brainstorming to figure out how online forums can make your eLearning course more immersive and interactive for your audience.
Forums in eLearning give learners the opportunity to connect with their peers and receive invaluable feedback. They are particularly useful for learners who lack motivation or are easily distracted, as they keep them immersed in the educational experience and cater to a wide range of learning styles.
Now that you know how to use forums in eLearning, check out the article 10 Netiquette Tips For Online Discussions to find out how online discussions contribute to your critical thinking, as well as 10 top netiquette tips for participating in online discussions.