What is it?
Collaborative Learning helps students being part of the online community as well as cutting down that feeling of loneliness and isolation which autonomous learning could lead to. Discussion forums are a great technique to foster interaction and collaboration.
Benefits of e-learning
- Forums add a new dimension to online learning. They are valuable tools also to encourage peer learning and exchange of ideas in a user-friendly environment without any pressure to be judged or evaluated by the teacher.
- They make ideas flow naturally and improves dialogues’ quality as students are aware that their classmates and instructors will read their posts. They will also have more time to think about what they want to write and why.
- They facilitate self-learning by encouraging peer-learning and problem-solving. They help promote a community of learners where students help each other no matter what. If a student does not understand something, he/she does not have to wait for the teacher to response, but his/her classmates can come in help clearing his/her doubts. In this way the learning process is accelerated.
- Forums are also a good way to present role playing, quizzes and other types of activities 😉.
- They foster deeper insights into topics and share of thoughts.
Tips for effective discussion forums
- Online forums should be used regularly. Both at the beginning as a way of breaking the ice with your students to get to know them and let them get to know each other AND in the course as a brainstorming activity. Schedule them regularly, every one or two weeks so that the students will know they will have to contribute to the discussions on a regular basis.
- As a learning activity, they should be linked to the learning objectives. Think about what you want your students to achieve from the discussion. Consider also integrating Bloom’s questions to achieve your goals (from the basics to the most complex).
- Make them mandatory and assign grades. This will motivate students to participate in the discussions and keep it lively.
- As a teacher, stay in the background and be silent, but be ready to take over if motivation decreased or discussions become argumentative.
- To keep discussions on track and avoid inappropriate comments, detailed guidelines should be shared with the participants in the instructions.
How to create discussion forums
Easily in LMSs (there’s the option to create them). Otherwise you can use online platforms such as Edmodo, Padlet. These tools can be enriched with pictures, videos and any features you’d like to add to make the discussion more interesting and engaging.
Don’t forget to practice good netiquette during your collaborative learning endeavours.