How to Get the Most Out of Online Class Forums

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Posted on January 1st, 2011

Online discussion is an integral part of online courses. In fact, many professors of online classes factor participation in the class's discussion forum as a part of the overall grade. This is because, for online students, forums can serve as much more than a simple requirement to scratch off the to-do list. Next time you log in to your course discussion forum, consider the different ways you can use it to your advantage as a student.

The first thing you need to do is always remember to use proper "netiquette." This will allow you make a good impression with classmates and your professor. Netiquette is a fairly recent term that refers to proper internet manners and codes of conduct. Most of it is common sense, and really just means that you should treat others how you would like to be treated. For example, respond to questions and comments in a timely manner, refrain from posting hateful or inflammatory comments, and don't write in all capital letters (this only looks like you're shouting).

Another way to use the forum is to ask and answer questions. You have the opportunity to read classmates' discussions about the material to enhance your own understanding. If you still have a particular question, go ahead and post it online. Other students in the class will be able to answer the question and direct you to relevant resources. Even if your classmates don't know the answer, posting questions is always useful because your professor becomes more aware of issues that need to be explained further. You can also benefit from answering other students' questions.

You can also use the forum to create relationships with classmates. Because most of the work you do as an online student is individually-based, many online students fail to take into account the importance of their fellow classmates. However, your peers can be a hugely valuable resource in preparing for exams, getting missed assignments or soliciting opinions on an essay. If you are able to make connections with other students in your class, you will have built-in contacts for any academic emergency, which is much better than having to constantly email your professor.

Finally, use the online forum as a way to show your professor that you are eager to participate in class. Even if your professor does not take a participation grade, they are still most likely reviewing the forum discussions and posting their own comments. If you are able to participate in the discussion, your professor will be more aware of you as a student.

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