A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Discussion Forum

One of the most common internet experiences must be stumbling over one thing while looking for another. You begin with a very focused search, notice an intriguing menu item, and several clicks later you discover hidden internet treasure.

That’s how I found the AU Students’ Union Discussion Forums. There’s no attempt to hide these forums. I may have even come across them before. But with so much information available to students, sometimes it is only chance that takes us to the right place. These discussion forums are a valuable resource for AU students and worth checking out.

To find the forums, go to http://www.ausu.org, click on “Members,” then “Discussion Forums,” or click on this link. You have to be logged in to your AUSU account to view the forums. Log in at the top of the AUSU website pages or at the bottom of the discussion forum page. There are three active forums listed and a new one, relating to the 2014 election campaign for AUSU council, will be added soon.

The first forum, Welcome and Introductions, invites new students to introduce themselves and say hi. This is a good place to connect with students in the same program or taking the same course. Since online courses can feel isolating to those used to classroom study, this forum helps students know they are not alone. It’s worthwhile to connect with real people out there in similar circumstances.

The second forum, General Student Chat, is perhaps the most valuable. It’s also the most popular. In this forum, students can ask questions of other students. Whether it’s help in finding an AU service, advice about what courses to choose, how to stay motivated, or a discussion about e-texts, every topic of interest to students is covered here. Toss out a question or a topic, and other students will weigh in with advice and opinions.

In the third forum, Ask AUSU, students are invited to post questions for the AUSU council. If you have a question about what AUSU is doing or a comment about the website, this seems like a good spot. AUSU council members are prompt with responses.

Once nominations have closed for the 2014 general election for AUSU council, a forum will be added for the campaign period. This forum will allow students to ask questions of those running for council (follow the forum rules when adding your post.) Candidates can then post a response. Considering the nature of a distance campaign, this forum will provide the most effective way for student voters to get to know the candidates. Be sure to visit this forum in February.

Each forum contains a list of topics with the most recent at the top. The number of responses and date of the latest post is indicated for each topic. After clicking on a topic, you can read the original posts and replies, in the order they were posted. Buttons to post a new topic, or reply to a current one, are found at both the top and bottom of the page. While composing a reply, users can select the option to be notified by e-mail when any further posts are made to that topic. Harder to spot is the small “Subscribe forum” button at the top of a forum’s topic list. By subscribing to a forum you’ll receive an e-mail notification whenever new posts are made in that forum.

The “User Control Panel” button is found near the top of all forum pages and is the place to go to manage your forum settings. You can unsubscribe from a topic or forum in the “Manage Subscriptions” section. In the “Profile” section, you can go to “Edit Signature” and add a signature line to be used in your posts. Many users add their first name, along with the program and course(s) they are taking. Go to “Edit Avatar” to add a profile photo to appear next to your username. In “Private Messages” you can compose and send a message to another forum user, instead of posting publicly. You can also adjust your message settings here. Of note is the “Friends & Foes” section. Here you can identify users you communicate with frequently (friends) and those whose posts you do not wish to see (foes.)

The AUSU student discussion forums are valuable in two ways. First, the forums provide students with a tool for engaging other students. Whether to solve a problem or just chat, students can make that vital human connection. Second, it provides a quick method of having a question answered. If you have a question related to your studies at AU, another student probably has the answer. Rather than wade through the internet and hope to stumble over the solution, just post the question on the forum and let your fellow students show the way.

Barbara Lehtiniemi is a writer, photographer, and AU student. She lives on a windswept rural road in Eastern Ontario

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