A Forum is a discussion tool which facilitates asynchronous discussions in the form of posted messages. The concept of the Forum is based on a user posting a topic or question, and then receiving responses from either teaching staff or students. Responses can be text based, and/or include multimedia elements.
Forums provide an avenue for you to communicate with your students (student-teacher), your students to communicate with each other (student-student), and your students to engage with the ideas encountered in their readings (student-content). Forums also conform to Laurillard’s (2002) conversational framework’s four main aspects of the teaching-learning process; discussion, adaption, interaction and reflection.
Figure 1. Laurillard’s conversational framework
The use of a Forum can help build a sense of community between the students within your LEO unit and serve as a valuable learning and communication tool, regardless of the method of study (face-to-face, online, or blended).
The Forum tool can also be used for the purposes of assessment. You could use your student's participation in an online Forum contribute towards their participation mark for your unit. You could also use a series of Forum posts in lieu of more traditional long form essay or report. Forum posts can also be used for summative assessment, and can provide useful feedback on how much of your unit's content your students understand.
There are several different kinds of forums, each suited to a different context and with varying key features. You can select the type of Forum you would like to add to your LEO Unit under the 'General' tab in your settings page.Simply click on the dropdown menu next to 'Forum type'.
Standard forums for general use: An open forum that allows participants to create their own topics, post and reply. Whilst a standard forum provides the most open format it can generate a lot of discussion to keep track of. This is where you need to set expectations around how much time, as a teacher, you will invest in responding to posts, or if it is for peers to respond only.
Standard forum displayed in a blog-like format: An open forum where anyone can start a new post. Topics are displayed on a single page with links to ‘discuss this topic’.
Each person posts one discussion: Participants can only post one topic, which everyone can then reply to. This is good if you want to create a body of knowledge where each student is responsible for only one topic.
A single simple discussion: A single topic everyone can reply to (cannot be used with separate groups). Keeps the postings on topic.
Q&A forum: Participants must post their answer before seeing other replies. This is a useful forum to use to provide equity in allowing all participants to respond without feeling they are repeating previous comments.
Forums provide an opportunity for you to engage with your students, and your students to engage with each other, outside of class time. Depending on the kind of Forum you have added to your LEO unit, students are able to post comments, questions, and responses (in both text and multimedia format) and the Forum will maintain a record of the discussion for you.
Dialogue and reflection are limited in face-to-face classroom interactions, due to a variety of social and environmental factors. Rather than conceptualising of online or eLearning as secondary to face-to-face learning, online learning may in fact have an advantage in supporting collaboration and creating a sense of community. Using a tool such as the Forum activity with your LEO unit had the potential to foster a "group-centred" interaction pattern versus an "authority-centred pattern" of a face-to-face environment (Garrison 2006 quoted in Asynchronous Online Discussion 2014).
Bohm, David,. (1996) On Dialogue. London, GBR: Routledge.
Dalgarno, B. (2014). Polysynchronous learning: a model for student interaction and engagement. In B. Hegarty, J. McDonald, & S.-K. Loke (Eds.), Rhetoric and Reality: Critical perspectives on educational technology. Proceedings ascilite Dunedin 2014 (pp. 673-677)
Laurillard, D. (2002). Rethinking University Teaching. A conversational framework for the effective use of learning technologies. London: Routledge
Pelz, B. (2004). ( My ) Three principles of effective online pedagogy. Social Psychology, 8(3), 33-46. Contains a discussion rubric and rating scale to ensure students conform to Bills’ first principle, ‘Let the students do (most of) the work.’