From just a bulletin board to a DISCUSSION

Too many online discussion groups are really just online bulletin boards: a place to put up some information, but not discuss it. If that’s all you want from your online group – a place to disseminate information one way, from messenger to audience – that’s fine. But if you want more… what does “more” look like? And how do you get to “more”?

bulletin board / announcement board content:

  • announcements about events, policies, reports, new staff appointments, etc.
  • reminders about policies, events, reports, etc.
  • most content generated by 1 – 5 people; most staff & volunteers in the program don’t generate content (and may not even read it)
  • content is available elsewhere/is not unique to the forum
discussion forum content

  • people responding to comments and reminders
  • people asking questions
  • people inviting discussion or debate about specific topics
  • content generated by a variety of people, including staff members of the programs tied to the discussion forum
  • there is content that is not available anywhere else, meaning the forum is essential, not just a repeat of announcements from newsletters, etc.
  • unique content is essential; forum members need it for their work
bulletin board / announcement board method:

  • ad hoc, as events happen, policies and reports are created/updated, etc.
discussion forum method:

  • questions are regularly introduced, in a strategic manner, particularly when questions and discussions aren’t happening organically
  • specific people are contacted and asked to respond to a question, announcement, debate, etc.
  • discussion forum is highlighted (not just mentioned) during webinars, onsite workshops, onsite events, and attendees are invited to continue discussion on a specific place on the forum.
  • specific, current threads in the discussion forum are highlighted in meetings, newsletters, reports, etc.

Share your thoughts! And please see the wiki at for advice on how to make a transition from an announcement/bulletin board to a discussion forum.

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