Hi everyone


I am doing some research on the use of forums for learning and development and thought 'what better place to start than on a forum!'.


I want to look at the benefits and the drawbacks of using forums. What benefit do they bring to learning and development? Why would we want them in our organisations? How will they help? Who will use them?


Equally important I think are the drawbacks and/or detrimental effects they can have. What are the pitfalls? What should we avoid or be aware of?


Any advice, insights or comments that you may have on the subject would be really useful and appreciated!


I guess I really am immersing myself in my research on this!






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Hi Andrew,

Good question!

There are many thousands of examples of forums that have failed to take off. I know, I've run some of them!

Let's start with the benefits of forums:

1) They keep messages in a single, searchable repository (assuming this is the only comms tool people will be using)
2) They allow many-to-many conversation far more easily than email

Characteristics of successful forums:

1) They are either based around a small, highly focussed, and facilitated group, or around a very large group focussed on a particular product or specialism
2) They need feeding - either by a facilitator, by changes to the product, or by subject matter experts pushing in new ideas
3) They need clear, explicit guidelines on good practice in forum-based communication

Examples of successful forums:

1) http://www.manager-tools.com
2) http://moodle.org

Alternatives to forums:

1) Blogs with comments
2) Micro-blogging / social networking tools like Yammer, Socialcast etc

The beauty of the latter is that they major on ease of use, on making viral connections and on integration with the other comms tools people use (eg. email & SMS)

Hope that helps. Whether forums will work for you will depend very much on your specific context and business needs, whereas I've been quite generic here.

This sort of stuff has been my life for the past 10 years, so give me a call if I can help any more.

I like forums. Why? Because they're cheap, simple and familiar for starters. They're also asynchronous, which means you can read and respond to postings when you want. They're versatile, in that they can be used for simple queries, full-on debates and the sharing of documents and links.

Downside? Without a compulsion to use them (as in a course), it can be difficult to get the discussion going. Probably only 1 in 10 forum users contribute anything, although the other 9 get value. They can also be slow if you need a quick answer.



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