Creating and Assessing Discussion Forums in English Studies

Assessment, E-Learning, Seminar teaching

 Brief Descriptiononlinediscussion_large

This project aimed to investigate best practice for design and assessment strategies of VLE discussion forums in English studies, by drawing on the project team’s substantial experience in this area and by investigating the use of forums at other English departments in the UK. By the conclusion of the project, the team produced a taxonomy of forum activities and a Guide to Best Practice in implementing them, for dissemination throughout the HE English community.


Our interest in Technology-Supported Learning was initiated in September 2004 with a funding award from the University of Wolverhampton’s Centre for Learning and Teaching (CeLT) to develop online materials for teaching and to evaluate the use of VLEs as part of the assessment regimes of 1st and 3rd level English modules. It developed in part from a response to Jerome McGann’s observation in Radiant Textuality: Literature After the World Wide Web (2001) that humanities and English scholars have been slower than some of their colleagues to see the potential of digital technologies, and that lecturers in these disciplines needed to be convinced that ‘its tools improve the ways we explore and explain aesthetic works’, and that these actually ‘expand our interpretational procedures’. Whilst there is a growing body of general literature on the use of VLEs, there is relatively little on their specific applications in English Studies.

Project design

‘Creating and Assessing Discussion Forums in English Studies’:

  1. Explored how Gilly Salmon’s five-stage framework for online learning, as outlined in E-moderating (2000) and E-tivities (2002) works for online activities in English Studies.
  2. Gathered information from the HE English community about the range and variety of Discussion Forum activities being undertaken, via a questionnaire and visits.
  3. Developed a critical reflection on the kinds of online activities set up within the English department at the University of Wolverhampton between 2004-09, their rationale as learning activities, and what kinds of skills they were seen as developing for English students.
  4. Gathered data ‘tracking’ specific student groups within modules at different levels, noting how their use of the VLE progressed over an entire course.
  5. Quantitative and qualitative data was collected on student perceptions and responses to online work, including its being assessed.
  6. Considered some of the more philosophical questions posed by virtual text and virtual environments for Literary Studies in studies such as McGann’s (2001) and Landow’s (1997); in particular, testing McGann’s hypothesis that the WWW has introduced a new era in which traditional subject skills in English Studies will need to be redefined or re-conceptualised beyond book-based models of textuality and interpretation.

Reports and Outputs


Project team

  • Dr. Frank Wilson, Senior Lecturer in English,
    University of Wolverhampton,
  • Dr. Rosie Miles, Senior Lecturer in English,
    University of Wolverhampton,
  • Dr. Benjamin Colbert, Senior Lecturer in English,
    University of Wolverhampton,

Research Period

2006 – 2010