2 Pros and cons of online forums
The next activity encourages you to consider what some of the problems and benefits of using online learning forums might be.
Activity 2 Considering the problems and benefits
- 1. What potential problems can you see in using online learning forums?
Sharing your ideas on an online learning forum can potentially cause the following problems.
- The asynchronous (not happening at the same time) nature of online learning forums can be frustrating. For example, you post to your forum … and you wait, and you wait, and you wait … for an answer or a comment!
- Online learning forums are remote and, obviously, involve no face-to-face contact with participants. This means that there are no visual cues, which are often used when communicating face-to-face either in a room or in a video conference.
- You may feel anxious, nervous or reticent about sharing your thoughts with people you don’t know on a personal face-to-face level (see Griffin and Roy, 2019).
- When sharing your thoughts on a forum, you may hesitate, perhaps trying to ‘craft’ a ‘perfect’ message so that other participants cannot find ‘faults’ in your post. As Session 2 will show, writing, particularly in education, is often done for assessment purposes. As a result, you might have feelings of being judged or assessed by what and how you write when sharing your thoughts on an online learning forum.
- 2. Having addressed some of the potential problems with using online learning forums, now consider the benefits, some of which were discussed in Section 1. How many benefits of getting involved on online learning forums can you think of?
Again, your own answers are the most important here. The list below simply suggests a few benefits. They might match your own thinking or expand it. Remember: there is no correct or definitive list here.
- They provide a space for interactive communication among online distance learners who might not get many chances to discuss things in other parts of the course.
- They provide opportunities to exchange ideas with fellow learners whose ideas may differ from yours. This can help you develop different perspectives which you might not have considered on your own.
- Feedback from your peers may help you to see areas of strength or weakness in some of your ideas.
- They provide opportunities to learn from other people.
- They provide opportunities for group support from your peer group. This can help to reduce feelings of isolation when you are studying online at a distance.
- They provide opportunities for collaboration with other people. Working collaboratively is often seen as a key skill by employers.
- They provide opportunities to ask for help, guidance and support from both fellow learners and your tutor(s).
- They provide opportunities for a large and diverse range of people (across time zones, contexts and places) to get involved. This offers richer, more diverse learning than a physical classroom, for instance. It also enables a wide range of people to share ideas (Desanctis et al., 2003).
- Sharing your thoughts in writing on an online forum may lead to feelings of success, especially when you get positive feedback or stimulate a discussion.
So far, you have reflected on your own experiences of using online learning forums and how you feel – or would feel – about using them. You have also begun to consider some of the learning benefits of getting involved in forum discussions. In the next section, you will read and reflect on students’ experiences of using online learning forums.