LEO Guides

General forums

Top tips for engaging students in forums

Forums are an online space for discussion where LEO users don't have to be online at the same time (asynchronous) activity).

By default a News forum is added in the top section of a unit. A News forum is a forced subscription where information is pushed out from staff to students, similar to a bulletin board.

The other five options are provided under the forum activity tool.

  1. Standard forum for general use: all users in your unit, including both staff and students, can create topics, post comments, and replies.
  2. A single simple discussion: for example on one issue or content in a particular week.
  3. Each person posts a discussion:each person is limited to creating one discussion topic and can post any number of replies to their own or other discussion topics. As there is a 1 hour period allowed for editing, this will not be until that time has passed. NOTE: student must respond to the question to other student responses rather than add a new question.
  4. Standard forum displayed in a blog type format: this shows the discussion rather than having to click until the edit of the editing time.
  5. Q&A forum: lecturer posts a question for students to answer but students cannot see the answers of the others until they have posted.

To help keep the students engaged in online discussions:

  • monitor and respond to discussion posts on a regular basis
  • acknowledge contributions
  • address topics of conversations that are not appropriate or off topic
  • encourage students who haven't contributed
  • show a social presence
  • encourage deep thinking or critical analysis where appropriate.

All forums can be linked to group activities and this is recommended if you have one forum where you would like to restrict student posts to specific group discussions such as a National unit and campus discussion topics or small group activity and project work.

Restricting discussion to a group ensures a student only posts to their specific group and encourages a more targeted response to the discussion.

Restricting access to forums based on groups and groupings, whether this is a campus or a small group activity, makes it easier to manage student discussions on a specific topic and ensure only students in that group are able to post to the group discussion.

To learn more about groups, refer to the LEO Guides: Groups and groupings

University of Waterloo, Centre for Teaching Excellence. Online discussions: tips for instructors, accessed 12 July 2016.

Contact North, (2013). How to prepare and moderate online discussions for online learning. http://teachonline.ca/sites/default/files/tools-trends/downloads/how_to_plan_for_and_moderate_online_discussions.pdf. accessed 12 July 2016

Rizopoutos, L.A. & McCarthy, P. (2009). Using online threaded discussions. Best practices for the digital learner. in Journal of Educational Technology Systems, see http://ets.sagepub.com/content/37/4/373.short, accessed 12 July 2016