An effective forum
How can you tell whether your forum is working well? Here is a description of an effective forum.
- Everyone participates, and everyone feels confident they will be listened to.
- It is a supportive community, because people have come to trust each other, and look out for each other while respecting differences.
- The group has typically worked through shared experience or fought shared 'enemies', such as software problems!
- Everyone facilitates sometimes, which means taking some responsibility for discussions and activities, and for encouraging and helping others.
- Everyone takes initiative sometimes, by asking questions and starting discussions, rather than being passive and waiting to be told what to do.
- Arguments happen: people feel safe enough to challenge and disagree, which helps everyone to think and learn.
- Everyone writes carefully, putting their points clearly and constructively, and the structure of a discussion is obvious and easy to follow.
- People trust others to respect their words, to put a good interpretation on them, and not to 'steal' or misquote them.
Very few forums have all of these characteristics all the time but this is what the OU aims for in online educational forums.