How to Get the Most Out of Online Degree Program Bulletin Boards and Forums

Barry Lenson

Many online degree programs have bulletin boards or forums where students can post comments and questions, get to know other students who are enrolled, and share resources and ideas.  Often, students are required to post on them weekly as part of their coursework.

I have taken three courses over the last two years that required me to participate in bulletin boards, and I have been surprised when some other students didn’t find much value in them. I have been able to make very good use of them, in the following ways . . .

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  • To share resources and ideas with other students. Now, this is the basic purpose of forums, and you might wonder why I am mentioning it here.  It’s because forums can help you complete your coursework in more ways than you might expect. If you’re working on a paper and whiffing on finding source materials, for example, other students will almost always come up with lots of helpful suggestions if you ask them. I have also asked other students to share their experiences with me, and then used those experiences as case studies for assignments that I have been working on.
  • To network. It’s not off-limits to ask other students for their email addresses, and then ask them about job opportunities, internships, and other resources.  And because most forums shut down as soon as courses end, be sure to save addresses for other students so they can serve as networking contacts in the future.
  • To invest extra effort and earn a higher grade.  Even if only a small percentage of your course grade is determined by your participation in a course forum, it’s a smart move to post a lot of questions, respond to other students’ queries, and be a top contributor. Your instructor will notice, and your extra participation will almost certainly net you a higher grade.
  • To create study and work groups. Identify other top contributors to join you in researching a topic area. Or if you can identify classmates who live in your area, you can get together to study for exams or conduct research together for papers.

So if you don’t like your course bulletin board, perhaps it is time to think again.  If you apply the strategies above, they can help you earn better grades – and learn a lot more too.

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