Lesson 2   Mailing Lists (Listservs)

What is a listserv?
  • A group of users sharing information through electronic mail about a common interest; an email-based message center.
  • Users (subscribers) are able to post mail to and receive mail from a common group of people.
  • A public or private discussion forum with predetermined topics of discussion.
  • Listservs do NOT cost to subscribe, however, some are exclusive to certain groups. For example, a teacher might moderate a listserv for one of his/her classes and this would be set up to include only members of the class.
  • There are listservs for 1000'S of different interests and professions.
  • One can subscribe and unsubscribe at any time.
  • Listservs are an excellent way to find and share information with others in your profession or area of interest.
  • On the other hand, if you are not careful, they can overwhelm your mailbox!

What are some examples of Listservs?
Some sample listservs which have a discussion format:
    A discussion of topics dealing with educational technology
    A discussion for anyone interested in Biology education
Some sample one-way (non-interactive) listservs:
  • GERMNEWS@LISTSERV.GMD.DE What's going on in Germany - a summary of daily news from Germany (in German)
    "TOURBUS is a text-based tour of some of the coolest sites on the Internet. The authors serve as your tour guides, not only giving you the sites' addresses but also an inside look at what actually makes each TOURBUS stop so 'cool'." (Patrick Crispen)

How do I subscribe to a listserv?
       To subscribe to a mailing list you will start your e-mail software and create a new message. You will be sending this message to an administrative address rather than a person. This is the address you will use to subscribe and unsubscribe from the mailing list. Each listserv package has a slightly different method for subscribing. Check this page to see a general overview of subscription information. (However, you do not need to memorize this information as most services post the instructions for you. In addition, we have given you the necessary information in the exercises below.)

       Very shortly after sending your message requesting subscription to the mailing list, you should receive a confirmation message. When you receive your confirmation message, make sure to read ALL of the information and instructions in order to properly use the listserv. Don't embarrass yourself by failing to review the list etiquette. Even though there is a great deal of similarity among listservs, each listserv has its own set of guidelines.

Exercise 1: Subscribing to an interactive listserv (discussion format)


  1. To subscribe to the SCILnet teacher listserv (TEACH-L), send mail to LISTSERV@SCILNET.FORTLEWIS.EDU with the command SUBSCRIBE TEACH-L Your Name in the body of the message. Your subscribe message should follow this example:
    From: mdoe@anywhere.net (your e-mail address goes here)
    Subject: (leave blank)


  2. Leave the subject line blank and do not include any other information in the body of the message. Make sure to delete your signature if you have one.

  3. You will receive a Command Confirmation Request which tells you to confirm your subscription request by selecting Reply and typing ok. Read and follow the directions.
Exercise 2: Subscribing to a non-interactive (one-way) mailing list

Blue Web'n
To receive the Blue Web'n Update once a week, send an e-mail message to majordomo@lists.sdsu.edu with the command subscribe bluewebn in the body of the message. Your subscribe message should look like this:
To: majordomo@lists.sdsu.edu
From: anyuser@anywhere.com
Subject: (Type anything here you wish, or nothing!)
subscribe bluewebn

Exercise 3: Unsubscribing from a listserv

       Now that you are on the mailing list, how do you get off? Make sure to follow the directions for unsubscribing for your particular listserv. In most cases, you will send an e-mail message to the administrative address of your listserv with the word UNSUBSCRIBE in the body of the message. Depending on the list you subscribe to, you may also need to include the name of the list or your name. Again, I cannot emphasize enough, READ THE INSTRUCTIONS sent to you after subscribing!!! Before unsubscribing from the two you have just subscribed to, you should wait until you receive a few messages to see if you like the list.

How do I find a listserv?
       Remember that there are 1000's of mailing lists on the Internet. Finding one that is active and suits your needs and interests in not always an easy task. One of the best ways is to ask others in your profession or area of interest what listservs they would recommend. However, there are also several list directories that you can use to find a listserv.

Exercise 1: Using a Web Directory to find a Listserv

  1. Go the the Search The List of Lists directory.
  2. Type a single keyword or phrase in the blank provided.
  3. Click on "Find some lists!" This will generate a list of lists based on the keyword you entered.
  4. If you find a list that you are interested in, select subscription instructions (also found at the top of the search page) for information on subscribing to the list.
Other listserv directories:

Exercise 2: Using an E-mail Service to find an Listserv

Another method you can use to find a listserv is a keyword search via an email service. Follow the directions below to find a listserv that might be of interest to you.

  1. Create a message and address to: listserv@tamvm1.tamu.edu
  2. Leave the subject line blank
  3. In the body of the message write: list global/keyword
    you need to replace "keyword" with whatever subject you are looking for (ie: spanish, or chemistry, or finance...)
  4. Omit automatic signatures
  5. Send
  6. Check your mail and you should get a reply with a list of listservs associated with your keyword (it may not come right away, so keep checking)

List Etiquette
       Remember that a list you subscribe to could have 100's or 1000's of members. Visit Tammy Payton's Tips for Sending Listserv Messages to learn some the do's and don'ts of mailing lists. It is easy to embarrass yourself if you are unfamiliar with the expectations of the list.

       If you subscribe to a list that has a discussion forum, read all information sent by the list administrator, introduce yourself on the list, and then "lurk" on the list for awhile before posting. You will learn the ropes this way.

Some Educational Listservs:
Below is a short list of some of the more popular educational mailing lists. You can use the directories listed above to find more information about these lists.

Blue Web'nC-EDRESClassroom ConnectWWWEDUInter-l

You can find other educational mailing lists at the following sites:
Educational Mailing Lists for Teachers
Global School Network - Educational Listservs
Tammy Payton's List of Educational Mailing Lists

If you are currently subscribed to (or aware of) any educational listservs that other educators may be interested in, send the name(s) to Sandy Turner, SCILnet Internet Training Coordinator, or post them on the TEACH-L mailing list.

Tammy Payton's educational webster is an excellent source of information about email and listservs:
Tammy Payton's Teaching Resources: Listservs

Assignment E-mail 2 - Listservs
Complete ONE of the following assignments. Make sure to include the assignment name and number.
  • Post a message to SCILnet's TEACH-L mailing list. You could introduce yourself, start a discussion, or send some web-related information that would be useful to other educators in SW Colorado. Cc: this post to your site trainer.
  • Using the directories and methods described in the above lessons, find a listserv that you would like to subscribe to. When you receive a mailing from these listservs (other than the confirmation notice and the instructions), forward this mailing to your site trainer, however, don't forget to add the assignment name and number to your subject line.
  • If you are already an avid user of mailing lists, forward one of the posts from the list to your site trainer. Add to this forwarded message a short description of the purpose of the list.

Next: Lesson 3 - Finding People
Previous: Lesson 1 - Ask an Expert

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