Priming the Forum
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Priming the forum narrative

Situation    The opening weeks of “H817 Open”, a relatively small MOOC, produced a profusion of disordered posts which could not be searched, organised, tagged or otherwise managed by either the moderators or by the learners themselves.  Within days it was unmanageable for all but the most dogged.  Some learners made use of a Google+ community which arose; a limited amount of interaction was also achieved between some bloggers.  A significant minority of the formal students returned to their smaller closed forums after the first ten days.  Whilst some of the discussion in the official forum was of an especially high academic quality, the dispersed discussions struggled to achieve the same. Many learners expressed deep satisfaction with the interaction achieved on Google+ and through blog comments, but these were largely experienced users of social media for learning.  

Task    To elicit and support sharing of views expressed in forum posts in response to each week’s readings or webinar recordings, and to deepen discussion around these posts.   Learners struggled to self-organise posts and threads, resulting in many individual threads with a lone post.  As responses could not be organised after they were posted, the volume of threads became unmanageable for learners and staff to sift through and many posts elicited no response.  Further, contributions were not posted as part of a connected series of posts within a thread, so did not reference other posts or show connection with other learners creating a sense of isolation reflected in the single post threads.

Action    Following initial suggestions by some students, forums for each of the following weeks were pre-populated with threads defined by their different work contexts.

Result    The pre-populated threads in the discussion areas allowed participants to more readily identify groups to join, based on common interests.  Grouping in this way also appeared to increase the number of individual posts, which received responses.  

Reflection    By pre-populating discussion forums with threads according to the types of discussions anticipated in the course, educators were able to create more meaningful interaction between learners where the MOOC participants did not just post comments but also received replies and maintained a meaningful dialogue or conversation.


Author(s): Paige Cuffe, Eileen Kennedy, Yishay Mor, tharindu, Steven Warburton
Published at: 10 Aug 2015 12:23 GMT
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