Using Moodle forums for blended training

Allison Miller, eWorks Accredited Consultant

Allison Miller is the director of Vanguard Visions and an important member of a team of Accredited Consultants at eWorks. Allison is passionate about interactive learning and knows how to use the latest technology to make it happen. Here you will learn how to use Moodle forums in a variety of ways to support training both on and off campus.

Does less campus time mean less training?

Paul is a building and construction teacher. Paul needs to change his current training program because he has been given less time to run his block training sessions on campus. He would like to do this by extending his training with his apprentice learners between their block training sessions. He has recently discovered Moodle, but that’s just for storing course content, right? How is that going to help his learners do some of their training when they’re not on campus?

Introducing Moodle forums (yes plural!)

If you haven’t introduced Moodle forums into your blended learning strategy it’s time to join the revolution. Moodle forums offer so many options to make training relevant and interesting, and you can tailor interactions to the nature and stage of your courses.

  1. Getting to know each other forums

Starting a Moodle course with an icebreaker is generally a good idea. The ‘Two trues and a lie’ icebreaker asks learners to share three things about themselves, two of them true and one of them a lie (or a fib). Learners then guess which piece of information is a lie. A good way to kick-start this forum is for the facilitator to share two truths and a lie. This activity can be done before learners come to their first class or during class, to help them get used to using the forum space with the facilitator’s guidance.

  1. Question and answer forums

Q&A forums act like the physical classroom whereby one learner asks a question and the teacher responds so that everyone else in the room knows the answer. This type of forum means that teachers only need to respond to similar questions once via the forum rather than repetitively responding to the same questions via email or telephone. It also encourages a learner community, allowing learners to offer answers and support each other. This both encourages learners to get to know one another and reduces the teacher’s workload.

  1. Group sharing forums

Group sharing forums mean that learners can access ubiquitous information through the internet and share it so that teachers don’t need to give all of the content to learners individually. But this isn’t just about saving time for teachers – the best way for learners to retain information is by teaching someone else. By asking each learner to research a topic or theme and share it via a forum post for other learners to read and comment upon, learners will understand the content more thoroughly. Learners also generally put more effort into writing when it is published to the whole group rather than written for the facilitator’s eyes only, so the quality of learner output also improves.

  1. Debate forums

In debate forums each learner is given a topic related to the course and then asked to post information on either the ‘for’ or ‘against’ of that topic. Learners need to ensure that they don’t use the same information as other learners, encouraging them to read and learn from other people’s posts before submitting theirs. Once all ‘for’ or ‘against’ posts have been made, learners then need to give a rebuttal or reply to at least two or three other learners’ posts who took the opposing side of the debate. For a final post, learners are then asked to sum up why they felt their side won the argument. There is nothing quite like arguing a case to learn the ins and outs of a topic.

  1. Reflective forums

Getting learners to really think about how their training is impacting them can help them to understand the relevance of what they are learning back in the workplace. Reflective forums ask learners to share a situation in which they have been involved. For example, learners could share how their workplace health and safety procedures could be improved or changed, and how these changes would impact upon them as individuals and also the people in their workplace. Asking learners to read over the posts of their peers and respond as to how fellow learners’ suggestions could improve their own workplaces will reinforce the learning

  1. Peer review forums

Having work critiqued by managers and customers is part of most jobs. A peer review forum, where learners post work for review and critique by their fellow learners, is a great way for learners to develop these skills – and to get used to being reviewed themselves. A teacher or facilitator will make this process efficient and effective by providing clear criteria according to which the work of their peers is judged. Learning to respond to criteria is yet another skill applicable to the workplace, as well as applying for jobs in the first place!

Keeping it nice

We have all seen online forums move off topic, and even get personal and rude at times, so it is important that facilitators establish clear expectations about how learners Moodle forums. Fortunately this isn’t difficult. Simply provide your learners with information about online etiquette or ‘netiquette’ during a training session, then use a forum to ask learners to share what they should and shouldn’t do on these forums – plus the likely consequences if learners don’t toe the line. This activity could be undertaken in class so that learners learn how to use the Moodle forum function, and so that the facilitator can moderate initial activity to ensure that it meets good netiquette.

Want to spread the word?

Here is a nice little summary which will help you explain how useful Moodle forums can be to your colleagues or the powers that be.

Forum Ideas Learner Activities
Getting to know each other forums Learners participate in ice breaker activities to learn more about each other.
Question and answer forums Learners are encouraged to ask questions about their course or their work.
Group sharing forums Learners need to research and post information on a topic related to the course.
Debate forums Learners present the fors or againsts on a particular topic related to the course, and reply to their counterparts’ posts.
Reflective forums Learners share how an activity can be improved in their course or their workplace and how it can impact them and others.
Peer review forums Learners post their work for critique and feedback from their fellow learners.

Are you making the most of your Moodle forums? Contact eWorks to find out.