Required forum posts are the worst. Maybe this is a hot take, especially if you’re a professor getting ready for some online learning, but it needs to be said. Of course, engagement and participation are extremely important in educational settings. Forums can be a great place for discussion! But forum post requirements can backfire and leave students stressed, as well as rushing to add to a conversation that they aren’t interested in exploring.
With school going online, a lot of professors will be turning to weekly forum posts and responses for participation marks. I imagine that students will be facing weekly forum requirements in many, if not all, of their classes. Unlike in-class participation, these are being done outside of class time and taking up energy that could be spent on other things, like the major assignments of that class. When required responses are added on top of posts, students will be rushing to artificially respond to other classmates. If all the responses in a post look like this:
“Thank you for the thought-provoking post, student. I especially like your point about the subject. Want to answer this vague question that I won’t be reading the answer to?”
… Then you have a problem.
There’s no one way to teach a course, and I’m sure that in certain subjects and class sizes, weekly forum discussion can be stimulating and genuinely a great way to share ideas. In a lot of courses, however, weekly forum requirements are a tedious task that most students despise.
A solution might be to eliminate student concerns about writing formally, hitting a word limit, and having fewer forum posts as a whole. The focus should be on quality over quantity, so if a student posts three times in a semester and responds to five posts, that will give them more time to process their ideas and pose real questions without worrying about not sounding like the smartest person in the forum.
Do you agree with this hot take? Let us know in the comments!