Using Class Listservs

A listserv is like a hobby club. It's a gathering place for people who have similar interests. It just happens to occur in cyberspace through the medium of email.

Listservs are great places to meet people with similar interests in a safe environment. You will meet a variety of people on most listservs--from true experts in the field to novices. Listservs are great places for teachers to get their classes introduced to the power of email.

  • Postings are public, so it's easy to evaluate
  • Postings are with real people, so it's more motivating for students to participate.
  • It gives students a chance to interact with experts and possible mentors in the field.
  • It provides a great "practice field" for email. You can and must directly instruct students about netiquette.
One easy place to get started without any prior experience is at the Yahoo Groups web site located at   It is very user friendly and will provide you with all the information you need to start your class list.
Some terms you need to know:
Moderated – this means that you will monitor the messages and approve them before they are sent to the whole list.
Advantages: .Not difficult to administer, and it ensures that only appropriate material is posted to the list.
Disadvantages: It takes a great deal of time, some may feel they are being censored, and postings are much slower to get to the list.
Unmoderated – this means that messages are posted directly to the entire list without further approval.
Advantages: Extremely easy to administer, it takes very little time, it allows more openness of expression, and it requires a more active role among the participants to "police" the list and develop responsibility.
Disadvantages: you will get occasional inappropriate postings—including personal insults, inappropriate language, and "spam" (junk mail).
Yahoo Groups gives you a number of options to choose from. You can have:

Subscriptions—anyone can join or just people you approve can join Anyone, list members, or just yourself be able to post to the list.
A Web presence—viewed by anyone or just list members
Members list—viewable by only you, or by list members
If you are unsatisfied with any of the options you choose, it is an easy matter to change them.


Getting students to participate on a Listserv

This is always a challenge, so if many of your students are reluctant to publicly post to the listserv, it’s pretty normal. Some suggestions follow:

  1. Go over netiquette rules. Printing a hard copy of them is a good idea.
  2. Require postings as a graded activity. *Note: while some students will contribute readily, others will only do so "under duress".
  3. Have specific assignments for posting to the list: Brief introduction
    • Questions about the class
    • Reactions to assignments
    • Topical assignments on technology issues
    • Class/school issues
    • Other
  4. Participate in the list yourself. Bring up topics of interest and post them and respond to your students' postings. This will serve as a positive role model for your class listserv.
  5. Require students to respond to messages on the list. * Note: some students will do this naturally while others will need to be coerced.
  6. With some work you may be able to enlist former students to participate with the class listserv. Some of these students may end up serving as "mentors".
While it is no easy task getting all your students to understand how to use email effectively, it is well worth it. In the current information age, the students who grasp the interactivity concept will be way ahead. Utilizing email is the key!


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