My journey to becoming an e-moderator – Part II – the time when I became an online student

Dear all,

this is my second post about my journey to becoming an e-moderator. This time, I’m going to tell you about the time I became an online student myself.

Some of the courses I had to take at university were only offered online. I had never done anything like that before (as a student) and I thought it was going to be an amazing learning opportunity at that time as I would learn about a specific subject online as well as learn how to use a different virtual learning environment (VLE).

The university I went to had its own VLE, which provided students with a few tools such as…

  • forums: where we discussed about the texts we read
  • a messaging system: where we could exchange messages with tutors
  • a news board: where tutors posted important messages about our schedule and our course
  • tests and quizzes: we took tests and quizzes online. We only had to take our final test at university.
  • a calendar: where we could check important dates and deadlines
  • a report: where we could check our grades.

The VLE may have had other tools. I just can’t remember them any longer, though.

Students were also able to download the texts they had to read every week. In fact, this was all we had to do – download a text every week, read it, and take part in a discussion in that week’s forum. Tutors raised some questions based on the text we had to read and we had to discuss them. Therefore, we were all supposed to interact with each other (students and tutors), make our discussions meaningful, and build knowledge together. However, students didn’t do that at all – they just answered the questions proposed by the tutors and didn’t read any of the posts written by their classmates. Hockly and Clandfield (2010) suggest that one of the most important netiquette rules is “acknowledge and respect others’ point of view (even if you disagree)”. None of the students did that, except me. I remember I would read all my classmates’ posts before writing mine in order to avoid repetion (as students kept answering the questions in their posts, all posts were more or less the same) and to contribute to the discussion. Also, tutors didn’t write any comments on the students’ posts, didn’t weave or summarize the discussions.

A forum is known to be a place where “a lot of discussion and interaction takes place” (Dudeney & Hockly, 2007), a place “where students and teachers can exchange ideas by posting comments…” (Forum Module), and a place where “group members are expected not only to take ideas, links, …, etc, from the group… groups member are also expected to contribute to discussions in which they have something of value to add and offer to the group.” (Hockly with Clandfield, 2010). Also, “a forum can contribute significantly to successful communication and community building in an online environment…” (Forum Module). Unfortunately, none of this happened in these courses I took.

I would really appreciate if you could tell me a little bit about your experience… Have you faced this situation before? How did you deal with it? How do you foster interaction in forum discussions? How do you help your students build knowledge together? How do you build communities of practice in online courses?


  • Forum module. Available at Last accessed on May 01st.
  • How to Teach English with Technology by Gavin Dudeney & Nicky Hockly (Pearson, 2007)
  • Teaching Online: tools and techniques, options and opportunities by Nicky Hockly with Lindsay Clandfield (Delta Publishing, 2010)
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Michele Schwertner

Michele Schwertner has been an English teacher for over 25 years. She holds a B.A. in TEFL. She is currently teaching private lessons.

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