Introductions and Community-Building
Online students often feel isolated from anyone who can share their immediate learning experiences. This is the reason one of the best practices for online courses recommends that a discussion forum focused on introductions is one of the first activities of any course to support the emotional component of learning (Boettcher & Conrad, 2016). This introductory discussion forum lays the foundation for student-to-student conversation, interaction, and support, creating a comfortable and trusting social presence (Garrison, Anderson & Arche, 2000). In addition to the introductory forum, a related best practice is a discussion forum as a dedicated informal student space for students to talk to each other about anything related to the course or not. This is sometimes called the Cybercafe. Other community-building discussion forums might be dedicated to talking and sharing ideas about projects. Another community-focused forum might be dedicated to mutual support about problem-solving, case studies, or just thinking aloud. This introductory and community-building discussion board is usually not formally evaluated, but guidelines state how students earn points by being present and supporting the course community (Boettcher, 2019).
Boettcher, Judith. 2019. Four Types of Discussion Forums in Online Courses. https://community.acue.org/blog/four-types-of-discussion-forums-in-online-courses/