Presentation Abstract

Creating a Successful Online Forum for Professional Interaction: Lessons from the Netoric Project

In the spring of 1993, I was one of a group of four writing teachers who began what is now known as the Netoric project, a series of real-time discussions and special events for writing teachers and those with related interests, using a MOO for our meeting place. Over the last several years, the project has introduced many members of the community to the professional and educational uses of muds, held weekly "Tuesday Cafe" discussions on hundreds of topics of interest to the computers and writing community, and hosted well-attended special events with a variety of guest experts. Collaborations have arisen among geographically distant colleagues as a result of their meetings at Netoric events; new projects have arisen using Netoric as a model. Netoric members have brought their colleagues and administrators to Netoric's events as a way of demonstrating to them the legitimacy of their uses of the internet in general, and muds in particular, in their classrooms.

Now, several years later, two of us from the original group of founders are still coordinating Netoric events. The Netoric Project continues to grow, collecting new members mainly from the computers and writing community, but also from other disciplines, particularly education and various social sciences, who share our interests. In that same period of time, we've seen a lot of similar online projects begin with a lot of enthusiasm and willing organizers, then fade away after a meeting or two.

What lies behind the success of projects like Netoric, and what causes others, fired by just as much enthusiasm and hard work, and with real needs to fill, to fizzle? I propose to address these questions, offering suggestions for others who might want to host online projects of their own.

Among the topics to be addressed are:sidentifying goals and working out a concept of operations, finding the right forum, setting up the virtual spaces, creating and distributing a manageable workload, advertising events, gaining members, getting participation and help from those members, and sustaining the momentum over long periods of time.

Online forums for professional interaction will become increasingly important--and more and more populated--as we rely more and more on online resources and forums for collaborating, teaching, doing research, and disseminating information. In addition, some of the principles for success could also be applied to online and distance education projects, as well as to short-term but large projects such as online conferences. Therefore it seems useful to examine the success of online projects such as Netoric to see what makes them last.

Author: Tari Lin Fanderclai


Target Audience: Not Applicable

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