Forum / Announcements - main entry

Whether you are starting from scratch or working with a discussion forum already created, using the forum activity in a topic ideally consists of 5 stages, in a looped process.

1. Plan  |  2. Build  |  3. Test  |  4. Administer  |  5. Review  || Support

forum icon

Forum and Announcements are the same activity. However, you do not need to add a discussion forum for Announcements as this activity will already be set up in your topic. The difference between Forum and Announcements is that announcements are for teacher use only – students cannot add a discussion post or reply to an announcement. When you set up a forum in your topic, students can interact with you and other students.

Announcements are a way of generating social presence/active teaching in your FLO topic. You can provide information to all students using the 'Latest announcements' block on the topic homepage. This is handy for important information (eg changes to lecture/tutorial times, assessment reminders). Remind your students to check their emails regularly. 

Forums enable participants to have asynchronous discussions (ie discussions that take place over an extended period of time). Discussion forums provide opportunities for social presence and can foster a community of practice in your FLO topic. Participation in the forum could contribute to an assessment grade, and could also indicate problem areas. Participants can subscribe to a forum to receive notifications of new forum posts. 


1. Plan

Announcements

Announcements are a timely, active element in the topic – use them to post reminders, pose challenging questions, generate curiosity, answer a common FAQ, or respond to 'muddy points'. Announcements are posted to all enrolled students in the topic within 30 minutes of posting (announcements override students' personal preferences in FLO and are automatically emailed out).


Forum

Discussion forums can have many uses, formal and informal:

  • a social space for students to get to know each other (eg a 'student lounge')
  • discussing topic content or reading materials
  • preparing for an assessment item, or as an assessment item (this can reduce emails to staff)
  • troubleshooting (a great way to foster a community)
  • continuing online an issue raised in a face-to-face session
  • a 'help centre' where tutors and students can give advice
  • teacher-only discussions (using a hidden forum)
The forum's purpose will determine the type of forum you set up. For example: 

Are you going to assess forum participation? | What type of forum will you set up? | Will you set up ratings in the forum?

Suggestions to help with planning:

  • Talk to teaching peers about issues around forum participation and assessment.
  • Decide what marks to assign to the forum (it could be a non-graded pass or a percentage).
  • Give students a rubric/marking guide that shows them what effective participation means – criteria could include originality, scholarly argument, type of interactions between students and demonstration of critical thinking skills (quality), as well as quantity of posts and word length.
  • Decide whether to use peer assessment (ratings) – this approach could help create a sense of community and deepen learning: 
    • Set up the forum to allow peer assessment. Make sure students are selected (Permissions > Rate posts).
    • Decide on the range of ratings (eg 5 which means students can rate each other on a scale of 1-5)
    • How might students give feedback other than just a rating? It might be to reply to the rated post saying why they think it is worth x, and their own response. This is forum etiquette anyway when replying to posts (‘I don’t agree with…’ etc) and helps develop a critical but constructive approach.


2. Build

Announcements

You do not need to build the Announcements forum activity as it will already be set up in your topic. It will look like this:announcementsand is likely to be sitting in Module 0.


Forum

Forum posts can be rated by teachers or students (peer evaluation). Ratings can be aggregated to form a final grade which is recorded in the Gradebook.


3. Test

You could ask your eLearning support team to check the settings for your forum, to make sure it serves the purpose you had in mind in the planning stage.


4. Administer

Announcements


Forum

View some tips for fostering a community and facilitating/monitoring a discussion forum (PDF file).

In FLO (tracking tips)

  • Track and analyse the discourse – monitor for quantity and type (Activity report/Topic participation reports). 
  • View a student's posts for an overview of how they are tracking in the topic (how often they post, whether they start a discussion etc) 

5. Review

The observations you note whilst the forum is running will help you finetune the forum for the following iteration of your topic:

  • Would a different forum type be better?
  • Did students participate as much as you wanted? If not, why not?
  • Did student feedback tell you anything? (eg Touchpoint survey, class discussion, emails)
  • etc
You could troubleshoot with your eLearning support team or colleagues to refine your approach.


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