Sisco defines the forum as an open discussion carried on by one or more resource persons and an entire group. Responsibilities of the moderator include guiding discussion during which the audience is encouraged to raise and discuss issues, make comments, offer information, or ask questions of the resource person(s) and each other. According to Sisco, there are two variations of the forum: the panel and the symposium.
The panel is defined by Sisco as a small group of three to six persons, who sit around a table in the presence of an audience and have a purposeful conversation on a topic in which they have specialized knowledge. Guided by a moderator, the panel is informal in nature, but allows for no audience participation. Sisco defines the symposium as a series of presentations given by two to five persons of notable authority and competence on different aspects of the same theme or closely related themes. Although the symposium is formal in nature, questions from the audience are encouraged once the presentations have been given. An obvious benefit of the symposium is that it gives learners exposure to a variety of experts' viewpoints and offers an opportunity for audience members to clarify points made by the speakers.
Because computer mediated communication and networking facilitate the asking and answering of questions, CMC provides an ideal environment for the types of information exchange typical in forums. In fact, the forum can be more convenient and effective in the online environment than in the traditional classroom because speakers, experts and moderator can participate without having to travel or even be available at a particular time. Both synchronous and asynchronous communication can be utilized to support online learning forums.
This text has been adapted from Creating a Powerful Online Course through the Use of Multiple Instructional Strategies