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Maximizing the effectiveness of a discussion forum

Prepare in advance to set up the forum on university servers.
Integrate forum activities into the course, and reflect the value of the forum in the course syllabus. Set up a forum schedule so students know when to expect new topics and so they won't feel that they’ve missed topics or made mistakes. Example: Blackboard course syllabus, gradebook
Demonstrate the forum login process to students, and assist students who need to solve problems of technical ability or computer access. Allow time for students to troubleshoot. Plan for technical difficulties.
All students required to participate regularly in the forum discussions throughout the course. Consider tying part of the course grade, such as a broad professionalism category, to forum participation.
Specify a time frame or deadline on initial response to forum topics.
Begin with icebreaker activities and student introductions.
Review netiquette with students.
Monitor student participation regularly. Track participation for grades, encourage under-participants, and check for inappropriate participation.
Have a minimal presence initially so as not to control, dominate or inhibit student expression. Take on a more active role as students gain trust. Best role for instructor: guide on the side.
Avoid public praise or correction of writing.

Show that you value communication and collaboration, and that they have benefits for students.

Define the focus of each forum topic: sharing viewpoints, solving problems, building products
Model a positive and professional tone, respectful participation and appreciation for multiple viewpoints in order to build trust and community.
Nurture student expansion of ideas: recap what you've read, refer to others' responses, expand on others, question them.

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Copyright © 2006 Drs.Cavanaugh  Last modified: March 06, 2008