After running a contest to see which medical student forum was the best online it seemed the votes unanimously came in for The Student Room. After this forum was voted the winner with 798 votes compared to 2nd place with only 161 votes we knew we had a forum with passionate moderators and students. Jason Geall, managing director of “The Student Room”, was kind enough to take the time to answer a few questions about this forum and how it became the leader in the online world for the future leaders of medicine.
1. Editor, can you tell us a little about yourself and what led you to create the medical portion of The Student Room?
The Student Room was created 12 years ago to fulfil a simple need for students to share information and communicate with each other. As it’s grown we’ve paid careful attention to what students want and the site has evolved with them, always making sure we have a deep understanding of our members and striving to create a site that serves their needs. It’s one reason why, since 2010, we’ve been recognised as the world’s largest online student community.
As for the medicine forum on the site, our forums have always grown organically, if we see a community of people talking about a topic, we’ll create a forum for them. The medicine forum was created for this reason and it continues to grow year-on-year, predominantly due to the fantastic support and resources created by the community within that forum. The desire to pass on knowledge and help others is admirable.
2. How did you first get involved with forum moderation or creation?
The moderation of any forum site has to develop over time and as The Student Room has grown so has the support team. They are our biggest advocates and with our support we’ve enabled the moderators to effectively manage themselves and make many of the day-to-day decisions.
The creator of The Student Room, Charlie, now plays a more passive role in the site, having set it up in 2001 whilst studying for his A levels. He passed the site on to Chris Newson (CEO) in 2006, who now oversees all things TSR.
3. What do you find most challenging about keeping a forum of this magnitude running?
The education system in the UK is going through some of its biggest changes at the moment. We have to stay ahead of the game, whilst growing internally and updating the site to make it as useful as possible for our users. We can never stop forgetting our most important stakeholders, students, and our responsibility to them to stay current and helpful.
4. Tell me about some fascinating people you’ve interacted or met because of this forum?
Due to the size and popularity of the site we work and interact with a whole range of people on a daily basis. We’ve had celebrities, politicians, authorities, teachers, businesses engaging with our users; you name it, if organisations want to interact with students they come to us.
The site is so diverse, with so many different needs, that we’re constantly coming across fascinating individuals and organisations. Recently the nominees for our ‘Student in a million’ awards gave us some incredibly inspirational student stories that we didn’t quite expect and it reminds us how important it is to support this community. Have a read: http://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/content.php?r=335-Student-in-a-Million-the-winners
5. How do you keep and attract new quality moderators?
It’s all in the team. The guys are great at supporting each other and getting involved in any projects we have going on. The popularity of the site makes it difficult to choose new moderators, as there are always lots of great candidates!
This doesn’t happen overnight though – we started with a small team and have become bigger over a number of years, a lot of credit has to go to everyone that has contributed to the growth of the site and team.
6. Where do you see this forum going 1 year from now, what type of change will it help to create in the medical community?
There’s a lot of exciting projects in the pipeline for the coming year that should make a real impact on the site. We’re always looking to improve, and we are well aware that forums aren’t always the most user friendly places.
Making it easier to find your most relevant areas, be it medicine, rabbits or an apprenticeship is a key focus for us. In everything we do, we try to include our community as much as possible. Unlike other big sites, we listen to our members and we honestly read every bit of feedback that we’re sent. We love feedback so if anyone ever has any comments, suggestions or improvements please do let us know!
7. What’s the best thing you can give to your forum visitors?
A level playing field! No matter where in the country or world you live, no matter how good or bad your school is or how much support you get at home, The Student Room is there to give all students equal access to opportunities and support so they can achieve their full potential.
8. Everyone has a favourite moderator. What is yours & why?
Well, that’s quite a question! That’s really tough because they all do such a great job, putting in lots of time and effort. If I had to pick one I’d go with our Life & Style section leader, randdom. She’s our longest serving moderator, as well as a fully fledged doctor having received help on the site in her student years. Now she’s continuing her great work by passing on her wisdom. Oh, and she’s also married to someone who works at The Student Room, having met each other on the site!
9. Are there some moderators you regularly stay in contact with? Do you interact with others outside of the context of the forum? Why?
Absolutely, we try and stay in contact daily/weekly on the site as well as organising offline meet ups. Once or twice a year we’ll organise an all-expenses paid trip for the moderation team, where we all get together and have a great time over a weekend. In the past we’ve had fun filled weekends at centre parks, a boat trip down the Thames, cocktail making, chocolate making and lots and lots of lovely food. ‘Mod meets’ are always highly anticipated events.
10. How do you choose moderators typically? How long do they usually work with you?
Moderators are members of the community which stand out for a number of reasons. They post frequently, are trusted and reliable and keen to get more involved in the site. You can self-nominate but it’s the moderation team who will decide who becomes the latest member of the team.
11. How has this forum impacted your personal life and career?
The values of The Student Room are to be a welcoming, fun, useful, supportive, entrepreneurial, questioning and independent place for students, 24/7. Working on those values day in day out has a major impact on your life as you see real value coming out of what you do. When students tell us that they got into university thanks to the help they got from TSR or that advice from another member stopped them committing suicide, you realise the importance of making sure that this platform is always there for students; it’s a unique and privileged position to be in.
12. What big projects are you planning for the future with The Student Room?
The Student Room is not all we do, under the umbrella brand, The Student Room Group we run two fantastic social learning sites for students, which are MarkedByTeachers.com and GetRevising.co.uk. Each of these are popular with students in their own right and are full of really useful resources. So one thing we’d like to achieve is to get all 3 sites talking to each other and make it easier for students to learn together. There’s plenty of other things in the pipeline but we’ve got to have some secrets.