Academic Forum Posts
TL;DR: When posting to an online forum for class, you should always consider what’s appropriate for the medium.
For our the sake of our sanity and to provide a bit of clarity and guidance, let’s keep the following rules in mind when posting to a class forum — currently D2L for all of my classes.
First, uncheck the option “Include original post in reply” under “settings.” This is unnecessary and just makes the thread appear junky.
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Remember, you are not writing essays; this is a discussion, and posts are meant to further a discussion. Therefore, limit all posts to 150 words. Replies should not exceed 100 words.
The main reason for this is readability. Face it: people just will not read large blocks of text on screen. Academic writing often makes us poor writers: more often than not, it encourages us to attempt to cover more than we actually can in the space allotted.
Instead, focus on one point (argument, thesis) only per post. Remember, this is a conversation — not an essay. You can make your point, then reply later if need be. In fact, if you have more to add, start another thread, or post.
Develop your point using strong textual support from the primary text. Again, this is not a research paper, so secondary sources are often superfluous. Stick with the primary text in supporting your point.
Quote only when you cannot paraphrase, or when the original states it so succinctly and eloquently that you couldn’t possibly do better. (This is rarely the case.) Part of the reason for this is that quotations interrupt the flow of the text. Even when paraphrasing, be careful not to plagiarize.
Since your posts will be for class, you can assume that (1) we are all discussing the same text(s), and (2) we all have the same edition of the text. Therefore, introductory phrases like “In Hamlet on the Holodeck, Janet Murray argues that . . .” are unnecessary. Just use parenthetical citations before the end punctuation like MLA does. See “Digital Citation” for examples.
Link specific English words to contextualize your sources. Do not paste in URLs at the bottom of a post. Again, forum posts are not essays, so don’t threat them like they are with “works cited” types of entries.
Use your best writing for the screen. Use the active voice whenever possible. Use bold type strategically to draw the reader’s eyes to the most important points. Avoid wordiness by eliminating any extra superfluous words. For example, compare:
The most important thing that I have learned so far from the articles and from the class lecture is the importance of change mainly when it comes to New Media, it’s always something that will continue to change.
New media constantly evolves.
From the class readings I believed that Manovich’s viewpoint that media is always changing is a key aspect of the media landscape that we as users sometimes neglect.
Manovich argues that media constantly evolves.
Since you only have 100–150 words for your post: don’t waste a single word. Practice precision in everything you write.
In posting to any online forum — no matter what class you happen to be in — please keep the following in mind.
The following was written with the Moodle forum system in mind. However, it still contains some solid general information about posting to online class discussions. Some of these points, however, may not be applicable to all systems. Note: a “forum” contains “posts” or, even more accurately, “threads.”
Write Using Paragraphs
No big blocks of rambling text. Yes, forum posts are informal, but you must still consider good writing. Have a point to make; this is called a thesis statement in first-year composition. Proofread and revise. Use punctuation. Remember: this is a college class.
Link all secondary texts. Since we’re all using the same primary text, you needn’t cite it by linking. You must, however, link secondary sources. Also, you should still use in-text, parenthetical citations for both primary and secondary texts. See (if you did not above):
Make Titles Reflect Content
Remember, a title’s primary job is two-fold: (1) get the reader’s attention, and (2) give some indication as to what your post (essay, etc.) will address. It should be original. Catchy. For example, a poor title for a post in the “Introduction” forum would be “Introduction.” Would you want to read that? Also, a good title will give your fellow students the opportunity to more easily decide whether or not to read your entry — if it will be interesting or useful to them. Consider titles carefully.
You should not repeat threads. Why would there be five threads about “hypocrisy” in a Tartuffe forum? Simple, those folks who start a thread have not read the other threads first. This will earn you less points for your posts. Before you post a new thread on a particular topic, read what has already been posted. You might not even have to begin a new thread, but could just respond to one that has been started. Remember, the idea is a forum is to communicate with your fellow students. Forum posts are not formal essays. Do not treat them as such.
Respond to Posts
Your post within a particular forum will never be complete unless you respond to at least one thread. Remember, most forums will be worth ten points, but a thread (post, comment) is worth a maximum of five points. Therefore, you should at least begin a thread and respond to a thread in every forum in the class. However, I recommend doing more than that. If you earn a 4 on one post and a 3 on your second, your final grade for the forum will be a 7 out of 10. Posting one more time will likely make up those three points you are missing. If you want to make the maximum grade, post as much as you are able.
This does not mean quantity trumps quality. The best forum posts have something original to say, use specific evidence from the text, cite secondary sources, and are thoughtful, unique, and personal. Writing on the obvious will, at best, earn you an average grade. Consider a specific portion of the text — a theme, a character, a symbol, a passage — to analyze, to question, to interpret. Stating the obvious or summarizing the plot will not be enough.
Write about Texts
Finally, remember what you’re supposed to be writing about in the forum: the primary text for the class, not secondary political, religious, or cultural concerns. I do encourage you to make parallels between the texts we read and current events and debates in our society. However, be sure that they are relevant, respectful, and informed. Part of a liberal arts education is to learn how to read texts — all texts we are presented with in our daily lives — and not take anything at face value, including media portrayals of public figures or policies. It’s up to us to be as informed as possible, not just parrot media commentators. Remember: just because we hear someone from the “news” say something, does not make it true, appropriate, or at all informed.
Remember, the discussions are a significant part of your grade. This is where I get to see your ideas — your personality, your creativity — more than anything else you will do in the class. Make them the best you can.