Computer Mediated Communication: Building Online Communities

For the ALAK 2004 International Conference CALL fair, 12/04/2004

Example online communities:

ESL go English practice message boards

Learn English grammar online

What you need to build one:

A website – your own domain name will cost about 10.00 US/year while hosting should be 8.00 US/month or less. If you tell me what your needs are, I can probably help you find something suitable.

Software – Message boards are the most popular form of online communities and you can see an old-fashioned one and a more modern one by following my links above. At first I preferred the older style because seeing the subject of every message in a thread seemed somewhat conversational to me. However, the modern ones look so much better and are easier to moderate, that I would sugeest one of these. There are a couple of good free choices.

A theme – The theme should give learners a reason to use your message board. Without an interesting theme, few people will be inspired to read and post messages. On one site I used the theme “English practice and suggest various discussion topics”. Hopefully visitors find one interesting enough to discuss. On my other site the theme is sharing examples of English grammar in use. If you can’t think of a new theme, you may be better off joining and referring people to an existing community. Building your own online community is hard work and without an interesting theme you are probably facing a steep uphill battle.

Who you need to build one:

At least one moderator/administrator – Someone has to delete spam, and reply to messages. Moderators and Admins make sure that the boards stay clean and that conversations keep going. This usually means that the admin will end up making hundreds or thousands of posts, far more than the average member of your community. This is not an easy job.

Forum members – People have to come to your message baords and post messages. You can make your students visit for homework, you can attract visitors with free online English learning exercises, you can advertise, you can get other web sites to link to you, or you can fight for search engine traffic. I’ve done all of these with the exception of advertising. It will probably take you quite a while (6 months minimum but probably more) to attract much search engine traffic, even if you know what you’re doing. If you’re learning as you go (that’s what I did) expect it to take even longer.

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  1. Marina says:

    Hi. I’m a teacher in Brazil and I really liked your website. I wonder if you could share some worksheets and lesson plans.

    Thanks for the insights.