Good uses for bulletin boards and chat rooms

The course bulletin board provides an opportunity to have discussions between the instructor and the students and just among the students of this course. Anyone can either start a new topic or reply/add to existing discussions. The board is organized by "threads" or discussion topics. When you access the BB you see the list of current topics (threads).  Or you may see nothing, if the BB has not been used. I recommend that the instructor puts up at least some welcome message with some general instruction about how to use the BB. When you post, make sure that you see the "smiley face" at the end telling you that your message has indeed been posted. Make sure that you have "javascript enabled" in your browser -- you will be reminded of this. You may have to hit the reload" button before you see your posting appear! Click on a topic you are interested in to see details about the contributions (replies) to this topic. You can then selectively read these replies, add another, or just move on -- and start a new one.

As the instructor, you can remove any discussion "thread" from the board  by going to "page function" and the appropriate button on this page. This is a useful feature, if a student should abuse the BB, say by posting a hate message. I think a good pedagogical use is for the instructor to start a discussion topic and have the students reply. Maybe even with a little incentive, like a homework assignment. Check the BBs for Sharon Sassler's courses (SOC201 or SOC311) as an example; fairly lively there from venting anger over computer labs to a discussion over whether or not marriage is a business merger (a class on sociology of the family).

Course chat rooms. While BB postings are "permanent" (till the instructor erases them) and used "asynchronously", chat is "synchronous" live action, whatever is posted is not stored but available only to people currently connected to the chat room. I see two main uses:

 
Keep in mind, that BBs are generated automatically for each course, but that chat rooms are an option you may select when creating or modifying your course page. For the chat room feature, you need a web browser with java support (Netscape 4 under Win95 recommended); since java support is not fully standardized and is not available at all in older versions of web browsers, you may encounter technical problems if you use a different environment.