Ideas wanted – CASTLE summer book club

Today we officially topped 60 participants for CASTLE’s first annual summer book club. That’s great! – and many more people than I ever anticipated – but it also presents some challenges…

  1. It’s clear to me that we’re going to need to have more than one discussion group. Even accounting for some attrition, if we don’t break up into smaller groups then folks are going to be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of comments. I also want to make sure that people have an opportunity to have a meaningful say rather than being the 53rd person on the comment list. Based on my experiences with the online courses that I teach, right now I’m thinking at least 2 and maybe as many as 4 groups.
  2. I’ve been playing with Lefora as a potential discussion tool. I’ve also considered blogs and/or wikis. I definitely do NOT want WebCT / Blackboard / Moodle or any other kind of course management system (although Moodle’s the least objectionable of those three). I’d like RSS subscription capability, maybe for both posts and replies. The ability to see what’s new / read / unread would be nice too (I don’t think Lefora has this). I’m not sure what else is out there.

If anyone has any ideas on either of these fronts – thoughts regarding group size and/or what good tools might be for this – I’m open to suggestions. I need to make some decisions soon. Sign-up ends June 1 and we start June 9!

Anything else I should be thinking about? I’m excited to get going!

10 Responses to “Ideas wanted – CASTLE summer book club”

  1. I think you’re right about dividing the large group. I wonder if we should have a wiki for resources people suggest related to our reading. It could be organized by our reading assignments.

  2. Great idea, Skip. Ryan had some similar ideas in an earlier comment:

    I think we’re definitely going to have a backchannel!

  3. Scott,
    I agree that we need to have smaller discussion groups. I will even volunteer to facilitate one of the groups.

    I also like the idea of posting resources to a wiki that all of us could share. I have been using Moodle for a course development class and I like it, but I would like to be able to get an RSS feed instead of having to look at the forums to see what the new posts are.

    I am looking forward to this new adventure.


  4. Have you looked at Google Groups? Really, really simple and just plain works…

  5. I think Twitter is the obvious solution here.

  6. hey Scott, as somebody behind lefora, I must naturally plug our service 🙂

    Based on your concerns, it seems that it’s important for people to have a serious conversation around the readings. Forums are perfect for that many-to-many style of discussion.

    Some advantages of lefora for running a book club:
    * We have polls, either for rating pass books or potential new books
    * The community can ‘thumb’ up/down topics and replies. So it helps filter interesting comments (readers can collapse expand sub-replies)
    * People can subscribe to RSS feeds or receive email notifications when somebody has replied in a conversation they’re part of.
    * When returning to the site, we clearly highlight ‘unread’ discussions.
    * You can upload files directly to the forum
    * and finally – I’ll give you a free custom domain name for your forum, like ‘’, just email me at ‘chief -at-’

  7. Lefora looks cool. I’m not sure I could commit to facilitating, but I’d be in favor of 2 or 3 sub-groups. Maybe mixing up the groups halfway through? I’m just brainstorming…

  8. A ning would allow for a main page and small groups. It would take no time to create and be there for other talks in the future. I have several…I’d be happy to put one together.

    Vinny, Lefora looks nice can’t wait to dig in)

  9. How about using the CASTLE advisory board to help facilitate the group since you have already “vetted” this group.

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