From book clubs and administration meetings to workshops and courses, there are many tools that can be used to facilitate communication, collaboration, and learning.

Courses and Forums

Some of the well-known web-based tools such as Blackboard can be expensive. However an increasing number of people are using open source software such as Moodle for course management or Drupal for content management. These tools provide everything you need to set up and manage your own online courses including threaded discussions, assignment management, quiz creators, etc.

In many cases, you don't need an entire course management system. For example, you might want to simply set up book clubs for teens, science fiction fans, and mystery lovers. For these activities, a discussion forum is the best tool. A discussion forum is a web-based application used for holding virtual discussions. Often called threaded discussions, web boards, or discussion groups, they're commonly used for interacting with others who share an interest in a particular topic. Many discussion boards are used for troubleshooting problems or sharing ideas. The PHPbb software is often used for this type of forum.

Software for Courses and Forums

If you can install sofware on your own web server, consider one of the following open source software packages.

Drupal - Choose this option for content management.

Moodle - Choose this option if you're looking for a course management system.

PHPbb - This is a great tool for threaded discussions.

Websites for Courses and Forums

If you can't install and use your own software, consider using one of the many online services. Here are a few to consider:

Google Groups - threaded discussions (with advertising)

NiceNet - non-profit website with tools for course management.

Yahoo Groups - threaded discussions (with advertising)

Learn More

Learning Spaces: Course Management Systems from High Tech Learning

Learning Spaces: Discussion Forums from High Tech Learning

Threaded Discussions from Teacher Tap

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