Forums vs. Discussion and Private Messages

Sakai offers two tools with discussion board functionality: Forums and Discussion and Private Messages*. Depending on who you ask, one tool is much better than the other. Everyone seems to have their preference! In this post, we want to highlight some similarities and difference between the two tools, so you can figure out your own preference.

Both tools have the Watch feature we talked about last week. Additionally, they both have threaded discussions (though the threading differs slightly), grading capabilities, and rich text editors. The differences, though, are what might make one tool more appealing than the other.

In D&PM*, users can be associated with a public profile, and instructors can private message users. This private messaging function allows the instructor to intervene privately in an ongoing discussion, to counsel, advise, or caution a student privately without the other students seeing the message. The D&PM* interface is a little more complex than the Forums interface, but some feel that complexity offers a cleaner, less clunky appearance.

In Forums, the interface is relatively simple and a little easier to organize, but perhaps not quite as pretty. A big difference with Forums, though, is that it offers you statistics, while D&PM* does not. In the Forums statistics, you can see who posted, when they posted, exactly what they posted, and how many times they posted. For those of us who rely on discussion posts as a robust part of online participation, this feature makes assessing the quantity and quality of that participation very easy.

Of course, there are other differences between the two discussion board tools. Ultimately, we suggest that you add both tools to a project site and play around with them to see which one works best for you and your specific online discussion needs.


*Discussion and Private Messages is being phased out of Sakai – Forums has become the sole option for discussion boards.