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A "Virtual" Roundtable

Michael Fetzer
University of Southern Mississippi

As with many graduate students, my first SIOP conference experience was extremely inspiring. The coming together of researchers, practitioners, and students from all over the globe to exchange ideas and develop new directions for the field of I-O psychology was exhilarating, to say the least. There were so many symposia, discussions, and presentations that it was difficult to absorb everything I wanted to absorb. Three days and only one body just wasn't enough to take in all that was available.

The annual conference is an unparalleled opportunity for networking and the dissemination of current information. I wondered if there wasn't any way to keep the momentum going throughout the year. It wasn't until I began exploring the opportunities the Internet afforded I-O psychology that a solution came to me. The Internet could provide a medium for hosting a "virtual" roundtable discussion, accessible from anywhere in the world at any hour of the day, 365 days a year. In addition, this virtual roundtable would not be limited by time constraints, as participants could offer input at their convenience. Thus, the
I-O Psychology Online Forums were born.

These online forums are my attempt to facilitate the continual exchange of ideas in our field and to provide a resource for solving problems. The first forum I created, the I-O Psychology Forum, provides visitors with 16 discussion areas. Recent discussion areas include I-O International, Leadership, Training & Development, Personnel Selection, and The Future of I-O. Within each discussion area, visitors are able to enter a topic and post a message regarding that topic. Future visitors may view and/or respond to these messages, or post a message under their own topic. If your question is not easily answered in the published literature, the forum may a good resource. Since its inception in October of last year, the I-O Psychology Forum averages about 40 "hits" per day.

The second forum I created is modeled after the "TIP-TOPics for Students" column in this publication. The I-O Psychology Graduate Student Forum provides an opportunity for graduate students to post messages in discussion areas such as Surviving Graduate School, Theses/Dissertations, Comps, Current Research, Thinking Globally, and Jobs/Networking. This forum, like its parent, has also served to facilitate the exchange of ideas. In addition, it has served as a resource and a quasi-support group for those of us enduring the rigors of graduate school.

In both forums, visitors are also able to initiate and/or participate in chat rooms. The topics for the chat rooms are specified by the visitors, providing an ever-changing list of discussion areas. Large and small groups of collaborators, practitioners, and researchers (or just people interested in the same topic) can hold "virtual" meetings, free of charge. This will be particularly useful if hundreds or even thousands of miles separate group members. Perhaps, in the near future, people might be saying, "I'll meet you at the Forum."

At this point, both forums are housed on a commercial server, which provides space for such forums in return for attaching a small banner advertisement to the opening page. The advantage is that there is no charge for using the forums, and maintenance is rather simple. In the future, I hope to house the forums on a private server (if I can encourage the faculty to provide financial support for this in the budget). This will enable me to enhance the design and capabilities of the forums.

What began as a search for extending the SIOP conference experience has resulted in fulfilling a need for many others in the field. The "real time" exchange of ideas is no longer limited to 3 days a year and small networks of I-O psychologists. With online forums, the virtual roundtable can operate around the world, all year long. These forums may one day facilitate a more rapid advancement of the field of I-O psychology.

An Invitation

The forums are extremely easy to use, there is no software to download, and best of all they're free. Although I have provided the means for keeping the momentum of the SIOP conference going, the forums rely on the material provided by their visitors. As such, I would like to extend an invitation to all those interested in I-O psychology to visit the forums via the following URL: http://www-dept.usm.edu/~psy/io/forum.htm.

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