5 More Rules of Engagement: How to Sustain Participant Involvement in online bulletin boards
Sustaining participant engagement in bulletin board discussion can be challenging. Here are 5 more tips to keep them involved.
In a recent post, I outlined five steps online moderators can take to help plan for increased participant involvement in online bulletin boards. In this follow-up, I’ll share five ways to sustain participant engagement over multi-day bulletin boards.
Work at engagement. Even if the topic is a high involvement subject and participants have been carefully recruited, engagement doesn’t just happen. Online moderators have to work at creating an environment that fosters and sustains enthusiasm. One of the best ways to do that is to begin interacting with participants early and to keep it up over the course of the discussion. Activities that require participants to read what others are posting will encourage interaction among participants.
Make it a conversation. Unlike an in-person focus group, the text of an online guide must do much of the work of establishing rapport with participants. The solution is to write questions that are informal and conversational. Try imagining that you are talking to one person rather than asking questions or conducting an interview.
Vary the approach. While the extended time frame of asynchronous methods means people can participate when it is convenient for them, it also creates a challenge to keep participants engaged over the entire course of the fieldwork. It’s helpful to build in as much variety as possible in the types of questions and activities presented from day to day.
Reward desired behavior. Because of the ongoing nature of bulletin boards, there are frequent opportunities to shape participant behavior. Set out the ground rules at the start, and praise the behavior you want to see. For example, thank participants publicly when they comment on each others’ posts or give rich, detailed answers.
Use moderator tools. Every bulletin board platform includes built-in participant management tools built that allow moderators to interact with participants outside of the discussion board. Email is an especially helpful tool to remind participants to log in, encourage them to respond, and thank them at the end of each day.
Although it can be challenging to sustain participant engagement in online bulletin boards, there are tools and techniques that can help. The most important thing to remember is that engagement doesn’t happen on its own—it does take some work, but the rewards are worth the effort.
To learn more about increasing participant engagement, watch for my article in the Fall 2011 issue of QRCA VIEWS magazine.