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In the new year I will be experimenting with a Student Forum for A level Sociology students. I'd like to encourage peer group discussion with a very light touch moderation by myself and Chris.

All students are welcome to participate but please emphasise the board guidelines with them before they are encouraged to register..

The forum is linked via the Sociology section of my Learning Online site

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Hi Dan :rolleyes:

Thanks for your support.

I am a little nervous about letting my students loose on a relatively unregulated internet forum but will do it anyway.

We have weblogs on our "members only extranet" as you know but that does not give them access to much else other than my advice and those whom I might invite - not the full promise of the internet by any means.

I guess I need to work on board guidelines? Let me know what you think

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I've toyed with several methods of ensuring security. For some work I use a forum that has been installed onto our network, advantages are that its well within the walled garden and outsiders can't get near it. The downside to that method of course is that students can't access it from home.

E-mail lists, such as the ATW one are easy to set up for students, assuming they have e-mail addresses. These can be hidden from the general public and membership and posting rights can be set at any level that the administrator wants to use. On mine I choose to not list the groups publically, all members must be invited and the first 5 posts are moderated before they hit the list.

On public forums it is a little harder to ensure security. The tools on this forum, for example, could allow you to limit access to Private Messaging, e-mail can be blocked and / or limited and the amount of detail in member details can be limited. In that way the only means of communication is via the forums - ie, where its visible to all. Moderation then allows any suspect posts or breaches of student security to be deal with promptly. again, its possible to set member types to have differnt posting restrictions - so new members could be set to 'moderated posts' for whatever period, especially useful if you don't now who the person is. The restriction can then be lifted once the identity of the person has been verified.

In general I always include the following as rules for students in any online project:

- No pictures

- No addresses other than that of the school (and only that if absolutely neccessary)

- No phone numbers

- Usernames to be initial and surname, not full name

On public forums:

- No e-mail addresses in posts

- No PM function available

- Identity of all users verified before they can post (In my case the 'unknown' people tend to be cousins / friends of my students who have been told about what we're doing and want to join in, very easy to check who they are)

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