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Building confidence in using online forums
Building confidence in using online forums

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8 Thinking about the audience

As you saw in Activity 5 [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] , in face-to-face conversations, people use various strategies to show that they are paying attention to the other speaker. However, writing on a forum has characteristics of both talking and writing. In fact, when you compose a forum post, you are doing several things at once:

  • you are typing on a keyboard or keypad and thinking not only about what you want to write, but how to write it
  • you are reading and checking as you compose.
  • you also have to keep in mind who will read your response – your audience.

This is similar to the process of writing in other academic contexts. For example, when writing an essay, you need to make it ‘flow’, so that you give your reader a clear idea of how one point links to the next. This is a strategy that can help make a post more effective on online learning forums, too. In fact, writing on forums is a very good way of developing your academic writing skills and finding your own style.

There are some strategies you can use which act as ‘verbal signposts’. In academic essays, you might use these to link paragraphs, although using a more formal style (and possibly using words and phrases such as ‘however’, ‘on the other hand’, ‘for example’).

You can explore this in the next activity.

Activity 7 Revisiting Alex, Sheena and Ali’s conversation

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

Look again at Activity 6 and the discussion between Alex, Sheena and Ali (open in a new tab or window by holding down Ctrl (or Cmd on a Mac) when you click on the link).

Can you spot where they do any of the following?

  • Illustrate an idea or a point.
  • Offer an alternative view.
  • Extend a point.

Note down your ideas in the box below.

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  • Sheena introduces an example – the play area in the new estate.
  • Alex extends this with his own example.
  • Ali introduces a different perspective – although, as discussed in Section 7, using the words ‘no’ and ‘but’ stopped the conversation from progressing further.

Activities 6 and 7 encouraged you to think about who you are in conversation with and also the ways in which you can use language to help ‘keep the conversation going’. This all helps to build your confidence in participating in online learning forums.