Using LearnZone Forums for Teaching, Learning & Assessment

What is a ‘Forum’ activity?

The forum activity allows teachers and students to exchange ideas by posting comments as part of a ‘thread’. Files such as images and media may be included in forum posts if this setting has been enabled. The teacher can choose to grade and/or rate forum posts and it is also possible to give students permission to rate each other’s posts.

Why use the ‘Forum’ activity?

In normal times, teachers may wish to enhance teaching and learning in a more blended learning mode in order to supplement classroom-based education. However, being forced to operate classes online has presented an opportunity to refine our skills with technology to improve learning at a distance.

Research has clearly demonstrated that the use of technology could encourage more independent and active learning among students. Our LearnZone has two tools for creating a forum activity called ‘Forum’ and ‘Open Forum’ which could yield many benefits for you and your students.

Types of LearnZone forum activities

You will discover that a number of different types of forum can be added to courses on LearnZone.  These are:

  • Standard forum for general use
  • Single, simple discussion
  • Question and Answer forum
  • Standard forum displayed in a blog-like format
  • Each person posts one discussion

Potential benefits

Here are some potential benefits of regular online forum participation according to Pavlina (2005):

  • Intellectual exchange
  • Learning new ideas and refining old ones
  • Enjoying community membership
  • Influencing the forum’s evolution
  • Contributing to others
  • Making new friends and contacts
  • New business leads
  • Keeping up with current events
  • Learning about new opportunities

The Characteristics of a Good Online Forum

According to Martyn (2005), there are numerous characteristics of a good online forum. These are:

  • Require students to participate
  • Grade student efforts
  • Involve learning teams
  • Structure discussion
  • Require a hand in assignment
  • Learners use their own experience in posing questions and scenarios
  • Relate the discussion to course objectives

Qing Li (2004) also provided a further nine elements of a good online forum in her research. These are:

  • Establish a friendly, open environment
  • Use authentic tasks and topics
  • Emphasize learner-centred instruction
  • Encourage students to give constructive feedback and suggestions
  • Let students experience, reflect and share the benefit of using threaded discussion
  • Be sure that instructors facilitate collaboration and knowledge building
  • Encourage dialogue and referencing of other student postings
  • Use humour for motivation
  • Use emoticons to help convey ideas and feelings

Forums in Sport FE

Spencer Oakes has been using the LearnZone activity with students studying Level 3 Sport and Exercise Science. The screen capture below highlights what type of forum activity has been created to support teaching and learning. He has also provided a brief summary of the advantages and disadvantages below.

Screenshot from LearnZone of a Forum Activity from a unit in Level 3 Sport and Exercise Science


  • It provides a good starting point for the delivery of an online lesson with all the resources in one place and the students logging in to the forum, which has acted as a register.
  • Students can post questions on the forum and this has saved time in terms of not having to constantly respond to the same email.


  • The forum activity on LearnZone has limitations in the number of resources that can be uploaded at the same time.
  • To see which students have been engaging with the forum requires you to periodically refresh the page.

There are many good reasons to use forum activities as part of your everyday teaching and learning. Why not complete our training course linked below and develop a forum for us with your own classes.

Training and Further Guidance

You can access bespoke online training on the Staff eLearning Guidance & Support area on LearnZone. Everything you require to get started will be covered by taking this course. You can contact eLearning on or by joining our eLearning Team on Microsoft Teams.


Martyn M.A. 2005. Using Interactions in Online discussion Forums. Educause Quarterly No.4

Qing Li. 2004. Knowledge Building Community: Keys for Using Online Forums Volume 48, Number 4

Kaur, M. 2011. [Online]

Back to Top