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  2. Core skills
  3. Forums
  4. How to help a forum to work

How to help a forum to work

You can make a big difference to the effectiveness of a forum just by getting involved. This means

  • contributing regularly, and being prepared to start a discussion
  • putting in some time and effort, and encouraging others to get involved
  • 'being there' for people by reading and responding to their messages, and giving support where you can
  • if you do not know the answer to someone's question and nobody has replied, see if you can make a suggestion or provide a link to where they may be able to find further information
  • if you are asked to do particular things in the forum, get on and do them! Making a commitment is really crucial.

Help people get to know you

This is particularly important in the early stages of a forum. People need to feel they can trust each other, so they can 'risk' putting forward their ideas or asking questions.

Be yourself. Use examples from your own experience, perhaps share a little about your life outside study, and write more or less as you speak, rather than very formally which can come across as a bit pompous.

Construct clear messages

If you write your messages very clearly and make it easy for people to see how they fit into the discussion, then it's more likely others will read and consider your messages.

Use 'threading' properly. If someone replies to a message, then someone replies to the reply, and so on, then the whole 'chain' of messages is called a thread, and the forum software makes it easy to follow a thread. If you are introducing a new topic or issue, start a new thread with a new subject line.

Make the point of your message clear. A good way to force yourself to be clear is to add a one-sentence summary at the top of a longer message, such as "This message is to explain why...".

Keep to one subject per message. It's much better to send several messages if you have a number of topics to write about, because then people can reply to whichever topic they want and the separate discussions are in separate threads rather than being jumbled up.

Give reasons for your opinions. It's hard to discuss something with someone if they just state what they think without any justification. Use the word 'because' freely! Examples often help.