Online forums, which are also known as online discussion boards, have long been a popular medium of discussion between individuals who share the same interest. A 2015 survey by Pew Research Centre showed that 15% of all internet users comment or read discussion on online forums. Needless to say, as the diffusion of the web has continued grow and the social media continued to expand, discussion boards have continued to flourish. Yet, the benefits of online forums has also been seen within the education sphere. If used appropriately, teacher’s teaching and student’s learning can be greatly enhanced with the use of forum technology. Multiple studies have argued that the use of technology can encourage more active and independent learning among students (McKimm, Jollie, & Cantillon, 2003).
Many online education institutions use online forums, along with other mediums of interaction such as video conferencing, to compensate for the lack of social interaction between their students which would be evident in on-site programmes. The online forums give these students the chance to interact virtually, discussing their ideas amongst their peers. Online forums provide valuable insight to the tutors, enabling them to mentor and engage with their students in the discussion of new ideas. It gives tutors a valid perspective to the communication skills and level of subject knowledge of the different students in a group, providing an opportunity for students to demonstrate their knowledge. The better students would typically be the ones engaging in multiple conversations, starting threads and regularly participating.
One of the key issues with the use of online forums as a learning tool is that students have an opportunity to learn and discuss in a self-regulated and self-paced manner, rather than other methods of evaluation. Online forums allows students to read and review comments more than once. This allows students to fully comprehend the topic and discussion at hand, enabling them to research and better consider their comments on the message board, in turn allowing for more educated and high-quality comments. Regular use of an online forums with educated discussions can often lead to message boards being used as a resource library used by like-minded individuals. Participating in online forums allows participants access to knowledge that is free (Chinedu, 2008).
There are studies and evidence to suggest that students that engage on online forums post messages that include deeper analysis and reflections and longer solutions for problems when compared to face to face interactions (Hara et al. 2000). Students dedicate more time to reading and composing their responses, and finding the relevant references and information to include within their messages (O’Neill et al. 2006; Wang and Woo 2007). Given the right fostered environment, whereby knowledge is openly shared and the betterment of that online community is commonly shared, students can use online forums to seek assistance and support.
eBusiness Systems has been a service provider to online institutions since 2004, through the provision of eB-Learn, now in its 8th version. From an early stage, we recognized the relevance and benefits of including the online forum functionality into our web-based system. It is a tool utilized in a multitude of online institutions and accredited universities across the world. It is popular as a stand-alone feature, however when integrated within the overall functionality of our comprehensive system, it truly allows for a better learning experience for our students. The online forums has seen some drastic improvements over the recent months and years, both from a student perspective, and a tutor perspective. Tutors are now able to better navigate between student comments with the introduction of filters. Tutors are also allowed to pick and choose specific posts of interest and reply to that student in particular. Overall, the experience with the forums from the students of the system has been widely positive. Contact eBusiness Systems now to arrange a consultation and understand how eB-Learn can help facilitate your educational needs.