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Creating Community: Forums in Online Courses

Creating Community: Forums in Online Courses

Theorizing ET

Claire Burgoyne ETEC 511 University of British Columbia

Creating Community: Forums in Online Courses


In well designed courses the inclusion of content and an orderly presentation of that

content is expected. Conversation, discussion, and brainstorming are also considered to be of critical importance. If, as Falvo & Solloway, 2004; So, 2009; Tu & Corry, 2004 state, successful online course design means incorporating opportunities for students to work in community, why is it that some online courses overlook the value of forums? Somehow in the transfer from faceto-face education to online education the opportunity for sharing, collaboration, and discourse disappears. When this occurs we regress; having lost our focus we revert to an earlier model and create correspondence courses (Blocker, 2005; Perry & Edwards, 2004). In duplicating this older model we provide little possibility for students to contribute in any meaningful way as outcomes are clearly dened with little expectation for innovative and creative responses or conclusions.
Online courses need not regress, in fact, by including opportunities for contributions from

each participant we discover unique options for creativity and innovation that are difcult to achieve in a face-to-face setting, (So, 2009). Through asynchronous communication learning can

Creating Community: Forums in Online Courses extend beyond the classroom walls and connes of the scheduled class time frame (Blocher, 2005). Courses can include connections to experts not available face-to-face and include

opportunities to learn not only about a diverse range of cultures but allow learners from different cultures to connect and work together.
It seems that an obvious option for aiding these connections and building communities of

learners is online forums. However, simply directing students to forums and outlining expectations is not sufcient to encourage participation (So, 2009). Perhaps due to the lack of sound pedagogy in online education building community through engagement in forums seem unattainable. Educators avoid their incorporation into the online courses they create believing that their inclusion will be ignored by students. Some educators suggestion that attaching a reward or penalty will prompt students to participate in forums. However, for many students the possibility of earning marks is not a sufcient motivator. Some students would prefer to remain silent rather than face the discomfort of posting to a class forum (Falvo & Solloway, 2004). Instead of being offered rewards students require guidance from teachers skilled at providing support and direction in the online environment. Edwards, Perry & Janzen, 2011; dene such teachers as being challengers, afrmers, and inuencers (p. 107).
These are educators who are passionate about learning and are eager to participate in the

communities they create (Perry & Edwards, 2004). They guide discussion and inspire students by prompting them to delve further into the topics they are exploring. These educators encourage student autonomy and limit structure to dening expectations and providing resources (Tu & Corry, 2003). Such teachers recognize the importance of student comfort and they introduce forums by providing opportunities for students to interact with one another, and establish a level of trust prior to requesting participation in forums for learning (Ku, Lohr & Cheng, 2004).

Creating Community: Forums in Online Courses

It is with a basic structure of teacher as model, and some introductory practice to become

familiar with forums and fellow classmates, that students can begin to participate in forums. As students efforts are afrmed and they begin to feel condent they recognize that meaningful learning does not necessarily lead to one pre-determined conclusion. The transition to using forums for expressing ideas, reecting on content, and extending learning beyond what the course or any one individual provides can then occur. In such an environment students develop higher level literacy skills where reasoning, logic, problem solving, and argument are welcome. This is a learning environment that is distinctly different than the one created by attempting to replicate the classroom experience in an online environment. It is an environment that is rich and meaningful and is sharp contrast to correspondence courses.

Creating Community: Forums in Online Courses

References Blocher, J. (2005). Increasing learner interaction: Using jigsaw online. Educational Media International, 42(3), 269-278. Retrieved from EBSCOhost. Edwards, M., Perry, B., & Janzen, K. (2011). The making of an exemplary online educator. Distance Education, 32(1), 101-118. Retrieved from EBSCOhost. Falvo, D. A., & Solloway, S. (2004). Constructing community in a graduate course about teaching with technology. TechTrends: Linking Research & Practice to Improve Learning, 48(5), 56-64,. Retrieved from EBSCOhost. Ku, H., Lohr, L., & Cheng, Y. (2004). Collaborative learning experiences in online instructional design courses. Association for Educational Communications and Technology, Retrieved from EBSCOhost. Perry, B., & Edwards, M. (2005). Exemplary online educators: Creating a community of inquiry. Online Submission, Retrieved from EBSCOhost. So, H. J. (2009). When groups cecide to use asynchronous online discussions: Collaborative learning and social presence under a voluntary participation structure. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 25(2), 143-160. Retrieved from EBSCOhost. Tu, C., & Corry, M. (2003). Designs, management tactics, and strategies in asynchronous learning discussions. Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 4(3), 303-15. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.