Although Facebook is a popular tool amongst students, most of the students who attended our user research workshops agreed that it would be a good idea to have discussion forums in WebLearn for activities which support academic activities such as a lecture topic, or FAQs with respect to practicals and tutorials.
WebLearn has powerful tools to ensure that discussion forums have secure privacy settings, unlike Facebook.
Since WebLearn includes all members of the University you can be sure that no-one will feel left out.
“I’d like to use forums more and chat rooms. It would be really helpful. Not all of the students are on Facebook, and there are always 1 or 2 that miss out on the discussion going on. So having a forum – with e-mail notifications would be a good solution”
“It would be like talking about group meetings on WebLearn and being able to arrange to meet up at the pub on Facebook”
“WebLearn is more organised in terms of your forum messages are all there and your folders are there, whereas when you do it on Facebook, the attachment does not always work… and if you’ve got a big group, people don’t tend to stick to the work because you’re gonna talk about social things as well … so things get lost. The difference is, WebLearn is so much more organised”
Students would prefer to have a WebLearn area in which to pose questions and answers about tutorials, essays and practicals.
“…might prefer to use forums instead of Facebook e.g. for more directed conversations about the essays, essays titles”
“On Facebook you can’t speak to any lecturers or tutors, so if we have a practical to write up, and we’re all stuck on the same question, and we’ll all go on Facebook and say ‘What did you write? I don’t know what to do.’ If we had a forum in WebLearn, maybe with a tutor or a lecturer who also has access to the page, if they could possibly give us a little bit of help outside the lectures or the practicals, that would be really, really good”
A tutor’s presence online would be welcome, especially in a situation when students themselves are not able to solve a problem. The current practice is that students email their tutors, but the advantage of having a discussion forum would be that all students could see the answers and benefit from the interaction.
Students like to be able to upload and share learning materials. They use external tools (mainly Dropbox or Facebook), to share files unaware that tutors can provide student access to a shared resources folder in WebLearn.
“I haven’t been able to upload files, and I would want to”
“I didn’t realise you had a chat room … and the shared resources. I didn’t even know you can do student upload, I always thought it was tutor to upload only, so we used Dropbox a lot for that reason”