1 What is your experience of using online learning forums?
Figure 1 shows two opposing views of getting involved on online learning forums. You might associate yourself with either one or the other or you might be somewhere in between. In the activities that follow, you are asked to think about how you feel about using online learning forums. And, if you have used them already, you will be able to reflect on this experience.
Activity 1 gives you a chance to think about any experience you already have of using online forums and to consider how you feel about using them.
Activity 1 Reflecting on your online forum experiences
Blank boxes are provided for each question below. You can record your answers to the questions in them. When you click ‘Save’, your answers are stored and you can return to them at any point to review or amend your response. Your responses will be visible only to you. However, if you prefer to make notes offline on paper, or in any other format, you can.
For each question, you can ‘Reveal’ a brief comment after you have saved your answer. But remember that your answer is your answer which will help you understand where you are starting from and what you think about online learning forums.
- 1. What experiences have you had of using online learning forum(s)?
Obviously, your answer depends on your own personal experience. Perhaps you have used online forums based around a hobby, or a social interest, or as part of an online community. Of course, you might have already used them as part of an online course for school, college, work or university. For instance, most Open University courses and modules use online learning forums where learners can share experiences and ideas, raise questions and work on course tasks.
- 2. How do you feel about using an online learning forum? If you haven’t yet experienced using online learning forums, how comfortable do you think you would feel about posting to one?
You may find it challenging to lay out your own thinking in public on a forum for other people – usually strangers – to see and read. Equally, you might find it exciting and stimulating to share your thoughts and wait for others’ comments and feedback. You might enjoy the chance to bounce ideas off other people.
How comfortable you feel about posting to an online learning forum will be linked to your enthusiasm and confidence in using one.
- 3. What do you see as the purpose of online learning forums?
Each course that uses online learning forums will use them in different ways. Indeed, forums may sometimes have different names – a ‘discussion forum,’ for instance.
Their purpose includes providing:
- an online space where you can learn from and with other people
- a place where you, as a learner, can share your thinking – making your thinking visible
- a place where there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer, so you can develop discussions in the way you want to
- a place where you can be active – going beyond ‘just’ reading, listening or watching course content
- an online space where, together with other learners, you can build a sense of community, of being together on the same learning journey
- an online space where, as a learner, you can ask questions and benefit from answers perhaps from both your tutor and your fellow learners.
So, forums can serve multiple functions in online learning. But what might the benefits be of lots of different learners, from lots of different backgrounds and with lots of different experiences, sharing their thoughts and commenting on each other’s shared thoughts? Could that sharing stimulate your own thinking? Could that sharing help you develop your thinking? And what about questions from your fellow learners – other people’s questions about the thoughts you shared? Would you get such questions simply from reading, watching or listening to the course content?
In the next section you will consider the benefits of sharing and interacting on online learning forums in more depth.