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Chapter 4. Using Forums, Chats, and Dialogues

Chapter 4. Using Forums, Chats, and Dialogues

Forums are a powerful communication tool within a Moodle course. Think of them as an online message board where you and your students can post messages to each other while easily keeping track of individual conversations. Forums are the primary tool for having a discussion online and are the central organizing feature in the Social course type. In fact, you've already posted your first message to a forum back in Chapter 2. When you posted your news item, you were posting to a special forum used in every course for announcements and news.

Forums allow you and your students to communicate with each other at any time, from anywhere with an Internet connection. Students don't have to be logged in at the same time you are to communicate with you or their classmates. Figure 4-1 demonstrates how conversations are tracked through time, and readers can review the history of the conversation by simply reading the page. Those of us in the computer biz call this type of communication "asynchronous," meaning "not happening at the same time." This can be compared to a synchronous forms of communication like a chat room, instant messaging, or a face-to-face conversation.

Figure 4-1. Forum posting


Because forums are asynchronous, students can take their time composing a reply. There is a lot of research indicating more students are willing to participate in an asynchronous forum than are willing to speak up in class. For learners for whom English is a second language, for people with communicative disabilities, and for the just plain shy, forums offer a chance to take as much time as they need to formulate a reasonable reply. Other students who might be afraid of embarrassing themselves by making a mistake when they speak up in class can double-check their responses before they send them in.

These features create many opportunities for you not only to replicate the conversations you have in class, but also to create entirely new activities that are difficult to do in a classroom setting.

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