Many online education providers make up for the lack of social interaction between students by providing a student forum where the students can communicate and share their ideas. They might want to discuss a particular assignment that they are currently on or get answers to a question that they know they will receive a direct response for. With online education garnering more and more attention along with students, below we discuss the benefits of online forums.
For a course provider, online forums can be a beneficial aid to their courses. Professors can instantly check how engaged their students are by viewing their activity within the forum. The more interested a student is in the course they are studying, the more they will seek out the different information resources available to them. Professor Martin, from the Online Business School (OBS) states, ‘I know who my top students are simply by looking into the online forum. They’ll be the ones engaging in conversation, starting threads and participating regularly. From personal experience, the students who have a good online presence, generally do better than those who don’t.’ Professors can also communicate quickly and efficiently with their students using online forums since all the students are in one place. For students however, online forums are even more beneficial:
Students who are not as confident in a social environment may find forums help them to be able to have that extra time to put together their response. In a traditional university or a group conversation they perhaps may not share their opinion however an online forum provides them with the freedom to express their ideas. As they offer more input to their discussion online and become comfortable voicing their point of view, it may encourage them to participate in group conversations that are not online.
Gain new skills
It’s not to say that online forums can only benefit those who are lacking in social skills; even those who excel in expressing their opinions in a group conversation can use online forums to hone their listening skills and being able to critique what others have said. Observing how others gather their thoughts and form opinions helps every student to improve their own communication skills. The quality of conversation will often be higher than face-to-face as students know that professors have the ability to access their posts.
Regular use of an online forum provides a bank of resources that students may find useful to refer back to. Rather than digging through piles of crumpled paper to look for group discussion notes or hastily written minutes, they can simply scroll back to when the conversation took place to remind themselves of what was said. Some may be reluctant to encourage students to spend more time online however this does not need to be the case. Students can set up their account to receive notifications by email or other preferred contact type.
We can see that forums are a highly valuable tool in the education sector. When used effectively, they ensure that students are improving their communication skills without even being aware they are doing so. Professors can use them to monitor their students and focus their efforts in engaging those students who may not be as present as others. As the online education sector continues to grow, surely the online forum will become the hub of student engagement.