AUSU recently rolled out its new AUSU Forums. The forums are an online social platform which enable AU students and others to discuss courses, ask questions, and interact with AUSU staff and council.
Quietly launched in May, 2017, already some students have found the new AUSU Forums. Several course discussions are underway and more are sure to follow when AUSU ramps up its promotional campaign.
The best feature of the new forums is searchability. Users can quickly search for posts mentioning a specific course, program, or topic. The only way to search for posts on the student-run AthaU Facebook group page, for example, is to scroll, scroll, scroll. Consequently, some questions get posted over and over again. With the AUSU Forums, users can quickly find answers to questions even if they were posted weeks ago.
The “subscribe” button is another handy feature of the forums. Registered users can subscribe to any of the forum categories, and receive an e-mail whenever a new post is added. So far, AUSU has created six forum categories. Three categories will facilitate student-to-student discussion: “Introductions”, “Course Discussions”, and “Off-Topic Student Chat”. The other three categories facilitate dialogue between students and AUSU: “Questions for AUSU”, “Bylaw Review”, and “Elections”.
Anyone can read forum postings, but only registered users can post to the forums. Registration takes just a few seconds, and simply requires you to create a username and provide an e-mail address. A password is automatically generated and sent to your e-mail address.
Unlike the AthaU Facebook group page, which screens potential members, the AUSU Forums can potentially be used by anybody with an e-mail address. AUSU does not screen registrants, but AUSU Communications and Member Engagement Coordinator Donette Kingyens says that regular monitoring to prevent misuse will occur. “Limiting the forums to members only would involve a more significant cost and maintenance routine,” Kingyens says, “including maintaining an external proxy server where we upload our members list. In addition, it could be restrictive for students. For example, our member list, as provided by AU, only consists of students actively registered in a course. However, many AU students take breaks in-between courses (or finish a course early and have a month or more before their next course), and would then not be able to access the forums between courses as they would drop off our member list.”
The new AUSU Forums, which went live in May 2017, replace an older online forum. AUSU discontinued the older forums in 2015 amidst a website revamp. At the time, AUSU cited the high cost of maintaining the forums. The new forum platform is specifically designed to integrate with AUSU’s WordPress-based website, says Kingyens, and will be “very easy to customize and moderate.”
The new AUSU Forums provide another tool for AU students to interact with each other. Unlike the AUSU mobile app, which is limited to students who have and use a mobile device, the AUSU Forums are available to anyone with an internet connection, regardless of what kind of device they use.
Check out the new AUSU Forums at: http://www.ausu.org/forums/.
Barbara Lehtiniemi is a writer, photographer, and AU student. She lives on a windswept rural road in Eastern Ontario.