There will be a meeting in the 24/7 Meeting Room to discuss this and next week. There are two meeting times to choose from. UTC 8am Thursday the 4th of September (8pm 4th Sept in NZ) or UTC 9pm Wednesday the 3rd of September (9am 4th Sept in NZ).
So we're focusing in on discussion forums this week, and only for the week. We have been going slowly up until now, spending 2 weeks on the foundation topics. Now we get down to business looking for evidence of community in a range of online environments, and thinking about what facilitation techniques might be appropriate in that context.
So, find yourself a few discussion forums. Preferably open access ones so we can all refer to what you are looking at. Browse Google Groups if you like, but there are many many other forum services to choose from.
Then go back to the question, what is an online community? See if you can settle on at least three indicators of an online community to use to analyse those you are looking at, such as: Has at least 10 active members, has a leader, is current and regular in postings.. (just off the top of my head - yours might be different indicators). Compare and contrast the forums you have found based on the indicators you are using.
Finally, consider the question of facilitation, teaching and moderation.. and make a suggestion of how you might go about facilitating one of the discussion forums you are looking at. What communication skills might you use or not use? Would you use the telephone to contact members of the discussion forum community? Would you email people privately? Would you moderate arguments and delete insulting content? Would you require dialog in the discussion forum - or will announcements be ok. etc.
Good luck, and hope to see you in the meetings.