Forums are the main communication medium for online colleges. You cannot go to school online without using forums, or discussion boards.
I go to school online, and I am very shocked at the poor use of the forums that most of the students show. It makes it worse when many of these are older adults and know better.
So, what can you do to write a good online college forum post? Read on.
Increase in Online College Attendance
Why is this important? For one thing, there is a huge increase in online college attendance. That is happening for many reasons.
- Distance — Many people attending college online do not have a university or even a community college nearby so they can go about their adult lives and still go to school. With online colleges, you can live in Wisconsin and attend a school that is located in Virginia. Some attend school in Florida while living in China.
- Scheduling — If you are a single mother working two jobs, going to school can be difficult. But if you want to get a degree and move up from the two job role, you need it. Going to school can be near impossible. Online college allows the single mother, or anyone else, to attend ‘class’ when they can as long as they meet their deadlines. They can fit college in as they don’t have to get dressed and drive there. It is wherever they are as long as they have internet access.
How Online College Classes Work
Overall, online college works the same as brick and mortar schools, but the difference is huge and can make or break your college goals.
- Class Time — There is no specific time you have to attend class. At a brick and mortar school, you have to be at your class on Mondays and Wednesdays at 10:00 AM. You are there for two hours and then you have to drive home. Sucks if you are working full time and this falls within those working hours. Most employers don’t like that. Going to school online means you can go to ‘class’ at four in the morning, during lunch, or over dinner. It is whenever you have the time to go there.
- Deadlines — Just like going physically to college, you have deadlines to meet. But the deadlines on an online college is even more important. You cannot miss these. For example, I have to post a 400 word mini-essay on a specific topic by Thursday night midnight based on my readings that I get on Monday morning. I know that this happens every week. After that, I have to comment on 2 other students’ post by Sunday night. My paper is due Sunday night, also.
- Interact — In a traditional school setting, you would sit in a class and comment on what others say including the instructor. That is what a forum is. You interact there as students comment on assignments and expand the ideas. The forum becomes the real classroom.
The Importance of Forums
As I just noted, the forum is the classroom. You show in the forum what you have learned from the readings and the lectures. You expound on the topic assigned to you. This is where you show yourself in class.
You also interact here and get conversation started. A great forum is when students can go back and forth respectfully and really get into a good discussion of the topic. This is where most of your grades will come from. The backbone of your education comes from the forum with the papers and exams as supportive.
See how important the forums are?
Criteria of an Online College Forum Post
Now, there is no one way to participate in an online college forum post, but there are some things that are universal.
- Follow Directions — If you want a good grade, follow directions. If you forum post requires you to write 300–500 words, don’t write 250 and think that is okay. Don’t write 600 words. If you do 502, don’t sweat it. Just keep it if at all possible within the parameters. Read your instructions carefully and do them.
- Correct Grammar — Don’t use slang. Use correct grammar. It is such a turnoff to be reading a post and the person thinks it is Facebook or Twitter. This is a college site where you need to be grammatically correct.
- No Contractions — Don’t use contractions. Instead of using ‘don’t’ say ‘do not’. You can get knocked on points if you use contractions. I found that out by accident. Pretend you are writing a formal paper.
- Be Articulate — Make sure your post is clear. You want to communicate your answer in a way that the reader, instructor, can understand. Expect your teacher to come back with a clarification question, but make it one that is expansive and not one that is a repeat of the initial question. Get your answer out in a manner that is clear, concise, and answer the question.
- Be Respectful — Do not get nasty to other students. Even if you disagree with the post, you can be polite when you disagree. You can disagree while be pleasant.
- Be Active — You need to be active in the forum. I have to admit that can be hard to do with you have a class with inactive people. Comment on other posts. Go above the minimum you have to for a good grade. Answer back the ones that commented on yours. Again, be respectful.
- Be On Time — In my school, my forum posts are typically due on Thursday or Friday. I have until Sunday to comment on other student’s post. A few classes have me responding to the comments on my post by Sunday. The problem is that most students wait until Sunday to comment which means I have just hours to sit and watch if they comment so I can respond. This puts too much stress on me. Post your assignments as early as possible.
- Don’t Gush — When I say be nice, that doesn’t mean you have to be all syrupy. Please don’t say, “You have a great post”, “You’ve done such a good job”, “This is the best post ever.” That is not good. It comes out as fake. Instead, say something like this, “Your synopsis is clear, and I thoroughly agree with the point you made about….”
- Cite — If you are quoting and referencing anything, cite it. This is an academic forum. Be academic.
- Clarify — Don’t be vague. Be clear and clarify your statements. If you make a conclusion, expound on that. Show that you explored the answer and can support it.