Tool Reviews



Watch overview videoKnowledge Forum (2:35)


Web KF is an educational software that had its nascent stages at York University in Toronto. It was later adopted by the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at University of Toronto, (OISE)and developed to support knowledge building pedagogies. This software encourages users to work jointly, or on their own to contribute information to a communal database, creating a resource for an entire community. Ideas can be revisited, critiqued, and reworked in a variety of ways. As students build on each other’s work, their efforts result in an increasingly elaborated network of ideas.

Justification for Using this Tool

Web KF is ideal for designing a WBLT in that it facilitates group work, knowledge sharing, problem-solving, on-line collaboration and distance education.  Some learning theories and design principles that are supported by Web KF are outlined below.

In terms of design principles, Web KF reduces cognitive load through the segmenting principle (Halpern et al. 2007). Complex information is broken down into smaller chunks that the learner can navigate at their own pace. In addition, the informal nature of Web KF aligns with the personalization principle (Clark et. al, 2011). An atmosphere of trust is created as participants build knowledge that is based on mutual interests and experience. There is a teacher presence, however the teacher acts as more of a participant.

Web KF is aligned with the following learning theories: Problem-based Learning (PBL) (Barrows, 1983), Collaborative Learning Theory, and Social Development Theory (Vygotsky, 1978). It is aligned with PBL in the sense that the instructor is able to post an ambiguous trigger, and the rest of the community is invited to opine and share their thoughts and experience with respect to the trigger. In terms of Collaborative Learning, all of the work in Web KF is based on sharing. Students participate in on-line collaboration,ask questions, solve problems, and provide feedback. Social Development theory plays a role in learning in that more knowledgeable participants provide scaffolding to other learners, which helps them reach their Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD).

Strategies for Use

Strategy 1 – Engagement and Participation

Watch overview videoEngagement and Participation (2:17)

Analytics such as graphs and matrices are embedded in Web KF which allow the user and the instructor to get a clear visual snapshot of the level of participation in the group over time.

Strategy 2 – Thought Development and Leadership

Watch overview videoThought Development and Leadership (2:16)

The ability to analyze and reflect on the communication dynamics of the group has the potential to shape both leaders and influencers within the network.

Useful Resources

Resource 1-How to Use Web KF

This is a short and easy to understand video on how to use Web KF.

Resource 2 –Using Scaffolds in Web KF

Here is a useful link on ideas of how to use Knowledge Forum scaffolds.

Resource 3 –Student Views of Web KF

This link discusses student views of collaboration and on-line participation in Knowledge Forum.


Barrows, H. (1983). Problem-Based, Self-directed-learning. Journal of the American Medical Association, 250(22), 61-79.

Broni, S. (2018, February 15). Why ‘knowledge forum’ & and some tips on the use of the ‘scaffolds’ [Web log post]. Science Academy (OUASSA) Blog. Retrieved from

Chan, C.K.K., & Chan, Y-Y. (2011). Students’ views of collaboration and online participation in Knowledge Forum. Computers & Education, 57, 1445-1457.

Clark, R.C., & Mayer, R.E. (2011). E-learning and the science of instruction. San Francisco, CA: Wiley.

Halpern, D.F., Graesser, A.& Hakel, M (2007). 25 Learning principles to guide pedagogy & the design of learning environments. {PDF file]. Available from

The Learning Exchange. (2018). How do we use Knowledge Forum. [Video recording]. Retrieved from

Vygotsky, L.S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, M.A.: Harvard University Press.


Submitted by: Deborah McDavid-Pesikan
Bio: Deborah is an  English as a Second Language instructor and  M.Ed. candidate with an interest in technology to enhance the teaching and  learning experience.


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E-Learning Essentials 2020 Copyright © 2020 by Power Learning Solutions is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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