Are Discussion Forums the Future of Education?

Post written by guest author Sara Nolte

Even as online learning continues to grow in popularity, debates surrounding the many positive and negative aspects of online education continue to take place.

One of the most popular forms of teaching and learning in online environments is discussion forums, where students have the ability to interact with one another and their professor whenever they want to log in.

This process takes place in virtualchat rooms,” where students may view their own questions as well as answer the questions other users have posed.

A large benefit is that students can post questions and get answers from one another even when the instructor is unavailable. Additionally, before an online class takes place, the professor can prepare students with a brief recap of the previous class. This allows the professor to focus on only the new material when the actual class takes place, making better use of class time.

Shy students may benefit as well, as they tend to be feel more comfortable asking questions in online sessions than in face-to-face forums.

Cautious students may edit their responses before they’re published to the forum, which encourages them to participate more freely.

Additionally, “touchy” subjects, which students may not feel comfortable discussing in class, can be more readily discussed in an online format. Students often feel safer in the more anonymous environment of online chat rooms.

Now for the drawbacks.

There is such a thing as too much discussion; students sometimes complain that discussion forums provide too much outside work and professors complain about the heady task of going through the comments and responding to them.

Also, students may not write candid responses if they know the professor is observing.

Some students also prefer the face-to-face format of in-class discussions, where they can get the “expert” feedback of their professors, as opposed to the inexperienced feedback of their peers.

Also, if the discussion forum is not moderated or watched by the professor, students might be posing questions to each other about the content they learned about in class or in their readings, but none of them have the answer; if the professor is not present in chat sessions, students could get frustrated.

Lastly, online discussion forums in some cases are simply not necessary. For course content that does not require a lot of in-class discussion, out-of-class discussion sessions may be adding extra work with no added benefits.

Online discussion forums and chat rooms are becoming integral parts, but it’s important for professors to carefully think about how they will contribute to the overall course before incorporating them.

Has anyone participated in this type of forum?

What were your experiences?

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