Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this blog are entirely our own and not necessarily those of our employer or any other occupational therapist.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Who shall I be today?

You can be whoever you want to be online….

But is this a good thing?

The undergraduate occupational therapy programme at Salford University endeavours to facilitate student communication and networking via a virtual learning environment (we do also speak face to face to our students in case you were wondering!).

Last year however, some new students told me that they found posting on a discussion forum somewhat intimidating as it offered a permanent record of a particularly difficult moment or flippant comment or less than intelligent thought. They felt that this prevented them using the forum for its’ intended purpose and indeed it became more of an information sharing environment rather than a forum for debate and discussion.

This year, I discovered that it was possible to allow anonymous posting on the forum. Students have taken advantage of this and the discussion forum saw a lot of traffic. So far so good, I thought. But, I have now discovered that anonymous posters may be a little more forthright or personal in their views than identified posters. It is as if the cloak of invisibility removes the “would you say it to there face” test that others on this blog have mentioned before.

Moderating the boards becomes more challenging – constant vigilance is required and some posts have needed to be removed from the forum. Some students have complained that this prevents free speech, and that they are now reluctant to contribute… Back to square one. The boards once again seem to be becoming electronic notice boards rather than a dynamic environment.

The issue was really brought home to me though when one poster (anonymously) commented on the peculiarity of anonymous posting, and another (anonymously) agreed! So what do we do? Allow/disallow anonymous posts? Accept that the boards are being used in a meaningful way even if this is different to how they were originally intended? Police them or leave them? All comments gratefully received.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As the person who posted the comment about anonymous posting, and after having been in the fray of two heated debates on Salford's OT message board I can see both sides of the argument.
The cloak of invisability is a marvellous way to mouth off but I don't feel it is at all appropriate on an academic message board.

The political nature of the student rocking the boat until it tips is a well documented phenomenon however, the Salford Bsc OT student is hardly encouraged in this type of behaviour. Political and critical thought is definitly encouraged but as long as boat rocking doesn't cause any seasickness!

I don't think the discussion board would require half as much policing if people could no longer post anonymously as they really have to think about what they say.
Learning to deal with the consequences of what you say and how you say it is part of the academic process, even if you learn the hard way!

Saying that of course there is a little thrill of being a discussion board alternate identity - it's just so subversive!

Something to think about?
The OT Peter Parker