The educational technology and digital learning wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
The printable version is no longer supported and may have rendering errors. Please update your browser bookmarks and please use the default browser print function instead.


  • A forum is a network technology for holding discussions.
  • Original definition of the word: The open public space in the middle of a Roman city, especially the Roman Forum (eg Roman Forum) Wikipedia

Forums have been used long before the World-Wide Web came into existence. E.g. Harasim's well known reader (1990) is based on 1986-1987 workshop and Murray Turoff in the foreword claims "having observed and participated in the evolution of computer-mediated communication (CMC) since the late 1960s.

See also: computer-mediated communication and e-mail

Technical kinds of forums

There are five major families according to functionality

  • Pre-Internet bulletin board systems (BBS)
  • Threaded forums display discussions in threads like "old" UseNet News Forums did.
  • "Boxed" forums display discussions in boxes within boxes (boxes are arranged in linear fashion). These are the most popular today and for reasons Daniel K. Schneider can't quite understand ...
  • Specially enhanced forums for education, like Knowledge forum or a computer-mediated anchored forum (e.g. CaMILE)
  • Groupware systems that were originally conceived as forums + uploads (e.g. BSCW).

Choosing a kind of forum is not an innoncent choice for an educator, i.e. we believe that "modern" popular Internet Forums like PhPBB are often not suitable for a given pedagogical design. Avoid "boxed" forums, if the goal is to organize discussion and rather use a threaded forums for this. But since threaded forums are almost extinct now, you may have to use a News engine. Any C3MS portalware (such as Drupal, Joomla, PostNuke) includes one. In addition, modern Forums have so many features and buttons that untrained teachers and students get lost.

Finally, most portals including the kind we call C3MS include integrated forum modules (or are distributed as easy to install plugins). There is also a trend to add functionalities to forum software, so that they became a kind of portalware.

Research questions

Typical research questions are not necessarily related to the potential media effect per se, par rather related to new instructional designs made easier by the mediaum.

Style and depth of questions

Earlier research pointed out that online discussions are generally more equitable and democratic (Harasim, 1990; Levin, Kim & Riel, 1990) and more more reflective and mindful. DSchneider doubts this from his own experience (to expand).

Teacher's role and presence

How to design on-line discussions, how to facilitate student discourse. Different teacher roles: E.g. managing, monitoring, help-desk, facilitating...

Effects on student/teacher motivation

Pedagogical use

Sorry this part is really under construction and missing ...

Forums are the Computer-mediated communication tool for several reasons:

  • Educational use can be tracked back to the eighties: it's familiar technology associated with a lot of pedagogical knowhow. E.g. a good example for creative forum use are S-Gilly's e-tivities and her E-moderation five-stage model.
  • Any sort of portals, including LMSs provide forums (i.e. the technology is easily available).
  • They behave in some way like mailing lists, therefore most users are somewhat familiar with the technology
  • ....

Local or global ?

When planning a technology-supported curriculum that makes creative use of various technologies (e.g. Wikis, CMSs, activity-based LMSs, content-driven LMSs, simulations), one must decide where to organize various dimensions of tutoring and coaching, e.g. e-tutoring, e-moderation, e-coaching etc..

There are several solutions:

  1. One global forum engine
    • Advantages: One single place to check for new messages, rich features
    • Disadvantage: Users must connect to an other environment, often popular forums have debatable ergonomics, bad integration with course environments and learning tasks
  2. One forum engine par application
    • Advantage: Good integration with most environments
    • Disadvatage: Bad integration with tasks
  3. Discussion for each activity (e.g. Suthers and Xu's (2002) Artifact-centered discourse), e.g. the Discussion page on this Wiki is an example.
    • Advantage: Good integration with the activity
    • Disadvatage: Many places to look for (therefore these forums must have an optional email notification mechanism)


"Boxed" web-based forums (usually include some other software, e.g. a chat)
Groupware where a forum is central
  • BSCW (article in this wiki)



  • Anderson, T., Rourke, L., Archer, W., & Garrison, R. (2001). “Assessing teaching presence in computer conferencing transcripts.” Journal of the Asynchronous Learning Network (JALN), 5(2). HTML
  • Guzdial, Mark & Turns, Jennifer (2000), Effective Discussion through a computer-mediated anchored forum, Journal of the Learning Sciences, Vol. 9, No. 4, pp. 437. PDF
  • Harasim, L. (Ed.) (1990). Online education: perspectives on a new environment. New York: Praeger Publishers.
  • Harasim, L. (1990). “Teaching by computer conferencing.” In A. Miller (Ed.), Applications of computer conferencing to teacher education and human resource development. Proceedings from an International Symposium on Computer Conferencing, Columbus, Ohio (pp. 25-33).
  • Hiltz, S.R. (1994). The virtual classroom: learning without limits via computer networks. New Jersey: Ablex Publishing Corporation.
  • Levin, J., Kim, H., & Riel, M. (1990). “Analyzing instructional interactions on electronic message networks.” In Harasim, L. (Ed), Online education: perspectives on a new environment (pp. 185-213). New York: Praeger.
  • Suthers, D. & Xu, J. (2002). Kukakuka: An Online Environment for Artifact-Centered Discourse. In Proceedings of the Eleventh World Wide Web Conference (WWW2002), 472-480.