How to Provide a Better E-Learning Experience with 1 Page

forumsWhen Ben and I set up our very first online course a few years ago, we wanted to provide an interactive environment in which our course participants were motivated by a sense of community.

After all, we tend to learn better when we’re learning with others. Ideas are exchanged, communication skills are developed, and the entire learning experience is enhanced through active participation and engagement with other students.

However, this is often a challenge online, particularly for self-paced courses in which live discussion or question and answer sessions aren’t an option.

Ben and I found a community forum the perfect solution to allow our course participants the opportunity to engage with us, the instructors, and other students. Forums can provide many other benefits to your students’ e-learning experience as well.

Forums can be used to…

…post course announcements.

One of the most effective uses of our forum became the “Announcements” area. As our content was changing fairly often, announcement threads allowed us to keep course participants in the loop when we updated material which it may have been helpful to go back through. These threads can include any updates which course participants may need to review.

…build a community-maintained resource reference.

Another great way to utilize a forum in conjunction with your course is to create an ongoing list of resources related to your course content. As you or your students find information which supplements your content, it can be added to the forum for reference by others.

…develop a sense of community.

Forums are a great way to provide your course participants with the opportunity to introduce themselves. It can also lead to relationships which may be mutually beneficial beyond the classroom. As we’ve seen from our own experience, “Introduction” threads can be a great place for networking if your course content is related to professional development or training.

…reduce instructor input.

One of the single biggest benefits to hosting a forum in conjunction with our training course was giving students the ability to help one another. In self-paced courses particularly, some students move ahead faster than others and may be able to share their insights or answer questions which the instructor may otherwise be required to answer. A word of caution is in order here. These types of threads do need to be closely moderated to ensure that accurate information is being posted.

There are many other uses for forums in an e-learning environment as well. They can be utilized for public question and answer sessions, study groups, sharing personal experiences, or for students to solicit feedback from one another on assignments.

Forums also tend to elicit high-quality discussions. Participants have the opportunity to think through and research their responses, providing thoughtful insights.

Now it’s your turn! How have you used community forums to enhance your online curriculum? Let us know in the comments section of this blog post!


  1. John on January 13, 2014 at 10:14 pm

    This is just what I am looking for. Can you recommend a Forum plugin for WP?


  2. jane gardner on January 16, 2014 at 10:48 am

    Is there any community forum software that you have found to work best with WPcourseware environment? I am looking to setup forum within for students but I haven’t found any friendly software on classes I attend on the internet?

  3. Jacky on January 21, 2014 at 1:30 pm

    What is your preferred forum plugin?Prior to WP, I used to use phpbb. Now I use both SimplePress and bbPress. Each has its pros/cons, of course. Any other forum plugins to consider?

  4. Ben on January 29, 2014 at 1:57 pm

    Many of our customers are using bbpress for forum functionality. I have used Mingle in the past which is a simple, easy to maintain forum plugin. Neither of the plugins have integration for WP Courseware at this time, but would allow your students to communicate.

  5. Donna Macdonald on July 6, 2015 at 4:54 am

    Hey – I’m a new user and I have to admit I’m a little confused…… I received a link to this post on July 5, 2015 and followed the link to learn more about forums and WP Courseware….. nothing newer than January 2014.

    I would like to integrate a discussion forum as a part of my course and was hoping for a little more feedback. Does FlyPlugins have it’s own user forum?

    • Ben Arellano on July 6, 2015 at 3:02 pm

      Hi Donna,
      While we don’t have a direct integration with a forum plugin, many members of the WP Courseware community are using forum plugins like bbpress. We have used Mingle forum in the past and worked fairly well. We hope to have an integration to bbpress in the future.

  6. Brian on August 15, 2015 at 7:53 am

    One caveat: Forums do add a layer of administration and monitoring to the course. For instance, there’s nothing worse than questions that languish without being answered. And, sometimes it’s necessary to step in when disagreements among members look like they might turn into a food-fight. Then, of course, you always have to be watchful that inappropriate or possibly even illegal material isn’t posted, either deliberately or inadvertently. It takes work to make the forum a useful and welcoming part of the course.

    The bottom line is that a well-run forum can be a very useful medium for asynchronous communication among course participants, but a badly-managed forum can be worse than none at all.

    • Ben Arellano on August 17, 2015 at 1:09 pm

      Thats a great point Brian. It’s always important to carefully manage a forum. I’ve started forums in the past and it’s quite surprising how quickly people start posting SPAM and other inappropriate content.

      • iwan on July 3, 2016 at 10:28 pm

        hello ben,
        at mingel forum, is there a group features available that member can make discussion between other members at the same group or course ?
        I want to make a forum not just for all member but also limited for a course’s members only so the topic can be related and instructors of the course can play role as moderator of the group forum , in my opinion it can be effective

        • Ben Arellano on July 7, 2016 at 3:44 pm

          Hi there,
          Currently there isn’t a forum integration. However, there there is a third party integration for BuddyPress which allows social interaction with your students. Check it out here.

          • James Pepitone on December 11, 2017 at 6:31 pm

            BuddyPress looks like a good option, but I’m new at this. What is the primary difference between “forum” and “social interaction?” While note directly integrated, I see many using Facebook Groups as a convenient free alternative. Have any thoughts about it?

          • Ben Arellano on December 12, 2017 at 9:48 am

            Facebook is a great option, but there is a lot of distraction in FaceBook that can pull your users into various directions. The other thing to keep in mind with FaceBook is it really is a great place to have your users interact but it’s difficult to organize topics because it’s just a stream of communication. A forum is a bit more focused and organized. The forum keeps your users on your site and reduces distraction. It really depends on your tribe, how you want to control their interaction and if you need to organize topics.

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