Too many forum users for a change

In a typical tutor group forum out of a possible 25-30 users you’re lucky if you get four or five people participating and even then that participation is generally limited to an introductory comment at the start of the course and perhaps one or two replies later on.

Thus in my current astronomy course there are 60 forum comments of which 46 are from the tutor, seven from me and one from each of six other people. In fact, nobody replied to anyone else’s comment over the eight months of the course. Although we’re down to around 15 students now that should still be enough to get some responses.

However, TT280 is at the other extreme. For that the “tutor group” encompasses the entire course (several hundred people I think) which is far too many to keep track of. For instance, the week one seminar which only opened yesterday now has getting on for 200 messages on it. Somehow I doubt that many people have read them all or have any intention of trying to.

Where there does, so far, seem to be a happy medium is in the fast track forum which has only 13 messages on it so far. It’s the one aimed at people who are running up to three weeks ahead of the course timetable. I had sort-of expected that there would be more people participating in that but it would appear that it’s something like 50-ish out of the 1000-ish people on the course (taking the seemingly typical 20% forum participation rate as a guideline) or around 5% of the student cohort.

Already there’s a sign that some people are going to miss the wood for the trees in a big way. For instance, on the accessibility thread everyone is trying to find reasons why you should bother making websites accessible to (mainly) the blind and has totally missed what is by far the most important commercial reason which is that search engines are effectively blind. Thus, if you run up a site entirely in flash (which is surprisingly commonly done), then it’s basically invisible to google et al. From the other end, the tutors are trumpeting the OU rule that assignments can’t be distributed or published in any form yet 1) Nick Athanasiou, one of the students on the Advanced Creative Writing course has had the play written for his assignment performed (and this is even mentioned by the OU) and 2) the main reason for not publishing was related to the potential for plagiarism by future students which can’t happen for TT280 as this is the final run of the course.

Normally I’d be working on TT280 at this point but thanks to the drip-feeding of material I’m as far ahead as I can really go. Well, aside from the first computer marked assignment but I can’t submit that for another week or two anyway so I’ll finish it off during the week.

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2 Responses to “Too many forum users for a change”

  • Clarice says:

    The OU forums have always been a bit mystical to me. The first three courses I did no-one used them. I think maybe a couple of people actually did an introduction, but then it all tailed off. My most recent course was actually quite busy online, but that was because the tutor was really enthusiastic about it, and that helped. For the first time I did find the forum for U211 helpful, if a little droll at times. Without some of the stuff my tutor was putting online I don’t think I could have done so well in the assignments, especially on the one occasion that I couldn’t get to the related tutorial. However, I can really see the downside to a busy student forum. So much crap…so little time, comes to mind.

    By the way, thanks for the link to my blog. There’s one coming right back at you 🙂 Despite my recent OU postings drying up there’s one coming this week, and I’m sure more in the future, but my next proposed course (if I even take another course with the OU) doesn’t start until February. Aah, another few months off!

  • Arnold says:

    Yeah, I found the U211 tutor group forum quite active too. Not as hyperactive as TT280, nor as dead as S282 but a nice happy medium right through the course. I think it must be something to do with the kind of people attracted to the courses with those vaguely in the social area (U211, ED209) being quite chatty whilst the scientists hardly speak at all.

    Thanks for the link 🙂

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