The Online Report on Pedagogical Techniques for Computer-Mediated Communication

By Morten Flate Paulsen

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ISBN 82-562-3690-6, NKI, Oslo, Norway, August 1995

Table of Contents

Pivotal Definitions
Pedagogical Techniques described in Adult Education Literature
Overview of Possible Pedagogical CMC Techniques
Framework for Pedagogical CMC Techniques

One-alone Techniques: The Online Resource Paradigm
Online Databases
Online Journals
Online Applications
Software Libraries
Online Interest Groups

One-to-one Techniques: The E-mail Paradigm
Learning contracts
Correspondence Studies

One-to-many Techniques: The Bulletin Board Paradigm

Many-to-many Techniques: The Conferencing Paradigm
Simulations or Games
Role Plays
Case Studies
Discussion Groups
Transcript Based Assignments
Delphi Techniques
Nominal Group Techniques
Project Groups

Summary of Pedagogical Techniques utilized in CMC

Discussion of Techniques not Found to be Utilized in CMC
In-basket Exercises
Committee Hearings
Cognitive networks

About the Author


Dear Colleagues,
This online report is published as a result of my work as first speaker at the ICDE-95 On-line World Conference in distance education. The conference was arranged under the auspice of the International Council for Distance Education as a preconference to the 17th World conference for Distance Education held in Birmingham, England, June 26-30, 1995.

We chose global brainstorm as the pedagogical technique for the online session and hoped that it would help us share a fairly comprehensive compilation of experiences in the field. The objectives of the session was to give the 500 participants the opportunity to share experiences on pedagogical techniques that have been applied in CMC. All participants were encouraged to describe experiences from courses they have developed, participated in, conducted research on, or read reports from. As it turned out, the global brainstorm became more like a lecture with more messages posted by the first speaker than by the participants.

During the online session I posted a number of messages on the topic. What follows is a compiled and enhanced version of these messages.

Morten Flate Paulsen

Pivotal Definitions

Computer-Mediated Communication (Cmc): Transmission and reception of messages using computers as input, storage, output, and routing devices. CMC includes information retrieval, electronic mail, bulletin boards, and computer conferencing.

Pedagogical Technique: Boyle (1981, 213) defined technique as the form used to present material to be learned, for example lecture, panel, and group discussion. In this study, a pedagogical technique is defined as a manner of accomplishing teaching objectives. According to how the techniques prescribe student interaction with learning resources, the techniques are classified as one-alone techniques, one-to-one techniques, one-to-many techniques, and many-to-many techniques.

Pedagogical Techniques described in Adult Education Literature

There is an abundance of literature describing techniques that can be used to facilitate adult learning. A brief review of these techniques is included to identify techniques one may expect that designers of CMC courses are familiar with and therefore would consider to adapt to CMC. The books referred to in the following have been especially useful for the identification of the techniques included in this review of adult education literature. In "Adult Learning Methods", edited by Galbraith (1990, 131-390), the following techniques were discussed in detail: learning contracts, lecture, discussion, mentorship, case study, nominal group technique, demonstration and simulation, forum, panel and symposium, computer-enriched instruction, internship, and correspondence study. In "Approaches to Training and Development" Laird (1985, 129-168) described these techniques: lectures, readings, demonstrations, skits, field trips, note-taking, programmed instruction, panel discussion, structured discussions, panel discussions by students, topical discussions, question-answer panels, cognet, open-forum discussions, behavior modelling, interactive demonstrations, performance try-outs, brainstorming, case studies, action mazes, incident process, jigsaws, inbaskets, team tasks, buzzgroups and syndicates, agenda-setting buzzgroups, roleplays, reverse roleplays, doubling roleplays, rotation roleplays, finding metaphors, simulations, games, clinics, critical incident, fishbowls, t-groups, hot roleplays, and od data gathering. Comparable lists of techniques are presented by Knowles (1980, 239) and Knox (1987, 77-106).

In "Effective Strategies for Teaching Adults", Seaman and Fellenz (1989, 25-145) discussed and categorized the techniques into techniques for presentation, action, and interaction. The presentation techniques included lecture, symposium, panel, dialogue, debate, demonstration, and interview; the action techniques comprized in-basket exercises, simulation games, role plays, and case studies; and finally the interaction techniques included fishbowl, expanding groups, buzz groups, brainstorming - including delphi and nominal group technique, listening teams, audience reaction teams, colloquy, forum, committee, and committee hearing.

Overview of Possible Pedagogical CMC Techniques

Articles that give an overview of pedagogical techniques for computer-mediated communicationare more scarce than articles that discuss pedagogical techniques in general adult education. However, many descriptive articles, presenting opinions on and experiences from one or a few CMC courses, include some information about pedagogical techniques, but the issue is rarely pivotal. These articles are referred to in the review of each technique. Just a few articles have been found that address the issue from a broader perspective. These articles are reviewed in the following section.

According to Henri (1988, 88) many educational applications of CMC can be imagined, such as: a) replying to queries and requests from students, b) providing advice and guidance, c) helping students to solve problems with regard to the subject matter, d) serving as a transmission medium for homework and test papers, e) discussing projects and work with the tutor, f) bringing students together in accordance with their interests and their needs, and g) encouraging team projects and setting up self-help groups. A few authors have attempted to give a more detailed overview of the educational use of CMC systems (McCreary and Van Duren 1987, Harasim 1991 and 1992, Rekkedal and Paulsen 1989, Rekkedal 1990, and Kaye 1992). A closer examination of their articles revealed, though, that they are just preliminary attempts to cover the gamut of pedagogical techniques that are available in CMC systems. An overview of the techniques discussed in these articles is presented in the following.

McCreary and Van Duren (1987)

  1. The notice board
  2. The public tutorial
  3. The individual project
  4. Free flow discussion
  5. The structured seminar
  6. Peer counselling
  7. Collective database
  8. Group product
  9. Community decision making
  10. Inter-community networking

Harasim (1991 and 1992)

  1. Seminars
  2. Small group discussions
  3. Learning partnerships and dyads
  4. Small working groups
  5. Team presentations/moderating by the learners
  6. Simulations or role plays
  7. Debating teams
  8. Peer learning groups
  9. Informal socializing: the online cafe
  10. Mutual assist for help
  11. Access to additional educational resources

Rekkedal and Paulsen (1989)

  1. Distribution of information
  2. Two-way communication between tutor/counsellor/administration and student
  3. An alternative to face-to-face teaching, introduction of group discussion and
  4. project work
  5. The public tutorial
  6. Peer counselling
  7. Free flow discussion
  8. The library

Kaye (1992)

  1. The virtual seminar
  2. The online classroom
  3. Online games and simulations
  4. Computer-supported writing and language learning
  5. Multi-media distance education adjunct
  6. Lecture-room adjunct
  7. The education utility

Table 1. Overview of Possible Pedagogical CMC Techniques

Based on a study of applications of the CoSy conferencing system at the University of Guelph, McCreary and Van Duren (1987, 108) identified the following ten educational components and functions of computer conferencing:

1. The notice board. Conferences may have the same function as announcements in face-to-face classes. The instructor can, for example, introduce office hours, class readings, assignment deadlines, material on reserve in the library, and examination advice. The electronic notice board is equally accessible to those who attended class and those who missed. It is permanently displayed and automatically marked with the date etc. Since it is interactive, it also allows for clarification of announcements. For administrative details, it offers advantages over announcements or hand-outs in face-to-face classes, as well as over students' telephone calls and visits to the professor's office.

2. The public tutorial. It is likely that if one student has a problem understanding or interpreting, other students will share the problem. So, in order to benefit both inquirer and readers, conferences have been used for questions and answers that can clarify issues and elaborate on material presented in class. When issues are raised online, tutors are more inclined to produce a detailed discussion knowing that it would not be necessary to repeat the explanation for subsequent inquiries from other students.

3. The individual project. An online conversation between two participants can be useful in situations such as rewriting a term paper, guiding an independent reading course, or writing a thesis proposal. Online supervision may be slower than direct spoken consultation. On the other hand, it may be more thoughtful and more productive use of contact time.

4. Free flow discussion. A free flow discussion conference may be used to continue and supplement interaction in a face-to-face class. Participants can pursue ideas between classes after they have read further and reflected on the issues. For example, free flow discussion conferences have been used successfully for informal reflection on a futures theme. The discussion does not need to be inconclusive or aimless since any participant can focus on a series of comments and test group consensus.

5. The structured seminar. In a structured seminar, sub-topics have been matched to units of course material. This is particularly useful for distance learners and individuals who have incoherent course progress.

6. Peer counselling. Conferences for peer counselling are primarily for student-to-student interaction. These conferences provide a medium for mutual support and advice on academic issues such as exam preparation, administrative aspects concerning registration procedures and fees, existential crises related to work with thesis proposals, and how to survive as a part-time student. Although peer counselling take place in conferences with other purposes, their function is important enough to merit a separate conference or a separate topic in a course conference.

7. Collective database. Collective databases; such as annotated bibliographies, listings of journals, directories of sources for scholarships, and calendars of events; can be established within computer conferencing systems. Conferencing systems provides a means for soliciting and collecting contributions from individuals.

8. Group product. Conference systems can facilitate group work such as case study preparation, project development, and team presentation. Conferences can further provide forums in which classes can analyze problems, coordinate individual work, prepare group papers, and review and revise each other's work.

9. Community decision making. A conference open for all students, faculty, and staff can address management of educational resources, procedures for comprehensive exams and thesis defenses, curriculum changes, and preferences among nominees for visiting faculty. Especially at the graduate level, shared decision-making is beneficial for building true academic communities.

10. Inter-community networking. Linkages between similar academic groups at different universities have been attempted to promote common research and scholarly interests. This seems to work best among people with previously established relations through on-site conferences, shared study interests, or exchange of papers.

Based on her work with CMC courses at the Ontario Institute for the Studies in Education and at the Simon Fraser University, Harasim (1991 and 1992) offers eleven learning techniques that have been found effective online. Her presentation of these techniques are paraphrased in the following:

1. Seminars. In online seminars, students prepare by reading the assigned material before they log on to discuss pivotal issues with peers and instructors in an appropriate conference.

2. Small group discussions. In small group discussions, three to ten users discuss a particular topic, usually guided by an instructor or a group leader. The discussion often follows a seminar discussion or a plenary discussion. It may also complement a parallel face-to-face or online activity.

3. Learning partnerships and dyads. In learning partnerships and dyads, learners are paired for mutual support and group work. These techniques can serve as ice-breakers in early phases of online classes and they are also useful for joint writing projects.

4. Small working groups. Small working groups can facilitate collaborative work. Student groups can, for example, solve problems, undertake research projects, and write reports. Effective groups, though, require clearly defined tasks, roles, and timeliness.

5. Team presentations/moderating by the learners. Online students can be asked to moderate class discussions and to present papers in a computer conference. Students may, for example, work in small groups to present, moderate, critique, and synthesize a discussion on a class topic.

6. Simulations or role plays. Simulations and role plays allow students to apply and test theoretical knowledge in a simulated environment. Examples of successful role plays in online environments include a "management lab", an "evaluation manor", and "Sam's Cafe". In the management lab, students take on various roles in managing a hypothetical corporation. In the evaluation manor, learners assume the perspectives of various evaluators to debate evaluation procedures and approaches. Finally, in Sam's Cafe, the participants adopt the personae of characters in a bar to explore different philosophical perspectives and positions.

7. Debating teams. In debating teams, learners have the opportunity to improve their analytical and communication skills by formulating ideas, defending positions, and critiquing counter positions.

8. Peer learning groups. In peer learning groups, learners assist one another with writing assignments, problem solving, etc. Students may, for example, collaborate online to improve their writing skills.

9. Informal socializing: the online cafe. Since social communication is an essential component of educational activity, online educational environments should provide opportunities for informal discourse. An online cafe can contribute to a sense of community among the users, forging a social bond that may offer motivational and cognitive benefits.

10. Mutual assist for help. Valuable online support, based on mutual assistance, can be organized in an online conference where students can ask one another for help. Such a conference may be especially useful with regard to technical problems and system support.

11. Access to additional educational resources. Additional online resources for educational use include international networks, databases, library catalogues, and information pools. To benefit the curriculum, these resources could be an integral part of the online activities.

Based on literature review and research on computer conferencing courses at NKI in Oslo, Rekkedal and Paulsen (1989, 64) identified seven areas where computer conferencing can be applied in distance learning systems. Their accounts are paraphrased in the following:

1. Distribution of information. Distance teaching systems need to increase the efficiency of distributing and updating information to students, faculty, and staff. Computer conferencing can, for example, be used for distribution of updated learning materials and information about courses, seminars, examinations, and student activities.

2. Two-way communication between tutor/counsellor/administration and student. In most distance teaching systems, submission of assignments for correction, evaluation, and feedback is important. Research shows that extended turnaround times may have destructive effects on course completion. It often takes too long for students to get help when they encounter problems in their studies. To some extent, telephone support has been used in these situations, but computer conferencing systems function more conveniently. Students may, for example, ask questions at any time, without the time delay of land mail. Draft solutions may be discussed, introducing a more flexible organization of tutoring and assessment. Student answers may be made available to other students, before or after submission deadline. Computer scored tests can also be included in online systems, as a substitute for traditional off-line computer scoring. In higher level education, two-way communication by e-mail may be used in the guidance of individual student projects.

3. An alternative to face-to-face teaching, introduction of group discussion and project work. Many distance education programs include occasional face-to-face meetings between tutors and students, but practical or geographical considerations restrict many students from taking part in these meetings. Sometimes, face-to-face meetings develop into one-way presentation of subject matter. Computer conferencing, on the other hand, concerns mainly information exchange and interpersonal discussion. Electronic classroom discussions can develop into exciting experiences of group learning. In the same vein, the medium seems to foster equality of status between the participants. Finally, special group-learning techniques--such as group submission of assignments, group-learning and presentations, seminars, and project work--may be applied.

4. The public tutorial. Most distance education systems are designed for individual learning, but communication between one tutor and a number of individual learners is time consuming. Questions, answers, and comments from one student will, however, often be of relevance to others. In a conferencing system, such interaction could be made accessible to all students along with pre-produced information of general interest.

5. Peer counselling. Informal peer counselling and cooperation are regular activities in on-campus programs. In computer conferencing, the possibilities for such collaboration are obvious and actively supported in the majority of learning programs. Peer help in solving problems may often come from an unknown friend. Peer counselling may be of particular value in large scale systems where hundreds of learners are studying the same subject.

6. Free flow discussion. A number of educational conferencing systems have established social conferences, such as the cafe, the pub, or the coffee shop. These conferences have shown that informal discussions and non-academic activities can thrive in educational conferencing systems.

7. The library. In an online text database, articles, lectures, research reports, etc. can be made available to the students.

In a literature review paper on collaborative learning, Kaye (1992) described the following seven applications of CMC in education and training programs:

1. The virtual seminar. The International Executive Forum organized by the Western Behavioral Sciences Institute (WBSI) in La Jolla, California, from 1982 to 1991 is paradigmatic of the virtual seminar model. In this model, a small group of articulate peers exchange ideas and information over several months. The high quality and value of the online discussion is evident even from a retrospective analysis of the conference transcripts (Mason 1991).

2. The online classroom. Applications of the online classroom model have often been inspired by the "virtual classroom" research carried out at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (Hiltz 1990). Now, there are three common features of most online classrooms. First, the group size is comparable to that in a face-to-face class. Second, there is at least one person responsible for guiding the group's activities and, third, computer conferencing represents the principal mode of communication. Varieties of online classrooms depend on the age of student groups, the educational levels, and the roles taken by the people responsible for the groups.

3. Online games and simulations. The online game or simulation is a variety of the online classroom which merits further development, since it can build on computer processing in addition to computer conferencing. Examples of such simulations are the "virtual management practices laboratory" (Hsu 1990) at the New Jersey Institute of Technology and the Arab-Israeli conflict simulation (Goodman 1992) at the University of Michigan.

4. Computer-supported writing and language learning. Since the combination of CMC and word processors essentially has a textual nature, it has attracted interest within the field of the teaching of writing and language skills. Examples include Connected Education's creative writing courses and Rio Salado Community College's courses in creative writing, technical writing, and English composition.

5. Multi-media distance education adjunct. There appear to be strong arguments for introducing CMC into multi-media distance education programs in addition to print, broadcast, educational software, correspondence, telephone, and face-to-face meetings. E-mail can provide more regular and faster communication between students and tutors. Conferences provide a means for group discussions and interactive learning; communication amongst students, tutors, and course development and support staff; and opportunities for socializing and cooperation amongst students. Online databases can provide access to reference and library resources. Two examples of multi-media distance education providers are the British Open University (Mason 1989 and Thomas 1989) and EuroPACE.

6. Lecture-room adjunct. In large on-campus lecture classes, there is little time for individual students to ask questions and the format does not invite to discussion. In such a context, universities may establish conferences where students can get help from teachers and other students.

7. The education utility. The education utility is a set of online resources that students and faculty can access. The Campus 2000 system, run by British Telecom and Times Newspapers, is one system that provides schools and further education colleges with access to databases, computer based training material, international electronic mail, and a computer conferencing system. Campus 2000 hosts some distance education programs and many inter-cultural networking projects.

The techniques presented so far partly overlap and partly supplement each other. As shown later in this report, they could be better organized and far more comprehensive. A compilation of the techniques is suggested in table 2.

Collective database (McCreary and Van Duren 7)
Inter-community networking (McCreary and Van Duren 10)
The education utility (Kaye 7)
Access to additional educational resources (Harasim 11)
The Library (Rekkedal and Paulsen 7)

The individual project (McCreary and Van Duren 3)
Two-way communication between tutor/counsellor/administration and student (Rekkedal and Paulsen 2)

The notice board (McCreary and Van Duren 1)
Distribution of information (Rekkedal and Paulsen 1)

The public tutorial (Rekkedal and Paulsen 4 and McCreary and Van Duren 2)
Seminars (Harasim 1, Kaye 1, McCreary and Van Duren 5)
Discussion (McCreary and Van Duren 4, Harasim 2, Rekkedal and Paulsen 6, Harasim 3)
Debate (Harasim 7)
Online games and simulations (Kaye 3)
Simulations or role plays (Harasim 6)
Team presentations/moderating by the learners (Harasim 5)
An alternative to face-to-face teaching, introduction of group discussion and project work (Rekkedal and Paulsen 3)
Lecture-room adjunct (Kaye 6)
Group product (McCreary and Van Duren 8)
Peer counselling (McCreary and Van Duren 6, Harasim 10, Rekkedal and Paulsen 5)
Peer learning groups (Harasim 8, Harasim 4)
Informal socializing: the online cafe (Harasim 9)

The online classroom (Kaye 2)
Computer-supported writing and language learning (Kaye 4)
Multi-media distance education adjunct (Kaye 5)
Community decision making (McCreary and Van Duren 9)

Table 2. Summary of Possible Pedagogical CMC Techniques

Framework for Pedagogical CMC Techniques

A pedagogical technique is a manner of accomplishing teaching objectives. The techniques are organized according to the four communication paradigms used in computer-mediated communication. The paradigms are information retrieval, electronic mail, bulletin boards, and computer conferencing. The classification is derived from Rapaport (1991) who uses it in his book; Computer Mediated Communications: Bulletin Boards, Computer Conferencing, Electronic Mail, and Information Retrieval. Additional support for this classification is found in a paper by Harasim (1989). Presenting "the Collaborative Learning Horizon", she distinguished among one-to-one, one-to-many, and many-to-many learning approaches.

The foregoing considerations result in a framework of four classes of techniques as shown in table 3. First, the techniques classified as one-alone are characterized by retrieval of information from online resources and the fact that a student can perform the learning task without communication with the teacher or other students. Second, the techniques classified as one-to-one can be conducted via e-mail applications. Third, the techniques discussed as one-to-many will typically be conducted via bulletin boards or distribution lists for e-mail. Finally, the techniques presented as many-to-many can be organized within computer conferencing systems, bulletin board systems, or distribution lists for e-mail.

One-alone Techniques
Online databases
Online journals
Online applications
Software libraries
Online interest groups

One-to-one Techniques
Learning contracts
Correspondence Studies

One-to-many Techniques

Many-to-many Techniques
Simulations or games
Role Plays
Case studies
Discussion groups
Transcript based assignments
Delphi Techniques
Nominal group techniques
Project groups

Table 3. Framework of Pedagogical CMC Techniques

One-alone Techniques: The Online Resource Paradigm

This section describes techniques that utilize online resources. The resources could be information (online databases and online journals), software (online applications and software libraries), or people (online interest groups and individual experts). Teachers can employ techniques that utilize these resources via CMC. The techniques could be more or less structured, but they all require minimal interactive participation by the teacher.

Discussing CMC and student self-directed learning, Seaton (1993, 52) argued that the potential of CMC lies in its ability to provide a gateway to resources, collaborative learning, and individual achievement. He further stated that although CMC is neither a necessary nor a sufficient component to develop self-directed learning, it increases the possibility that such learning can take place at a distance.

The last of Harasim's eleven group-learning activities is access to additional educational resources. In her explanation, she stated: "Most university computer conferencing systems provide access to other online resources such as international networks...; as well as access to online databases, library catalogues, and similar information pools. These resources could be integrated into the design of online activities to benefit the curriculum." (Harasim 1992, iii)

Another description of online resources was presented by Howse (1991) in his article Internet - The discoveries of a distance educator. He discussed the following Internet resources with relevance to distance educators: electronic mail, newsgroups, distribution lists, library systems, electronic journals, databases, and remote software applications. In his conclusion, Howse stated that "Access to information and computing power, and use of this access, will not only enhance learning but it will empower those who have these skills. Distance educators should explore Internet. Better still, they can use the network to help their students." (Howse 1991)

Wells stated that "the array of resources available through the Internet is expanding at a dizzying rate with the result that increased access to remote library catalogs, online databases, and other material will immeasurably enrich the academic experience for all students." (Wells 1993, 85)

The Canadian Southern Interior Telecommunication Project (SITP), described by Teles and Duxbury (1991), is one example of a project with advanced use of online resources. The project was initiated by eleven school districts in British Columbia in early 1989, and the objective was to improve the educational system in the region by providing more resources to support the teaching/learning process through appropriate use of online resources. Representing 82 elementary and secondary schools, 359 teachers (and their classes), librarians, and staff joined the project. The participants were given access to e-mail via Bitnet and Internet, various computer conferencing systems in Canadian and U.S. institutions, and online databases such as Grolier, ERIC, and the Simon Fraser University Library database. Online experts were available to the participants. In addition, two accounts for Dialog, the News$ource, the Web, and the AT& T Learning Circle were given to each district (Teles and Duxbury 1991, 12). According to Teles and Duxbury (1991, 50), the most used resources were "electronic mail, followed by computer conferencing, and databases....The primary use of CMC was to support peer communication and professional development, and to enhance curriculum-based classroom activities". They further concluded that the reported impact on students, as perceived by the teachers, were greater access to information, increased enthusiasm, more opportunities to collaborate in larger groups, and increased incorporation of real life experience to classroom activities. Finally, the authors report that the majority of the participants were "highly positive and enthusiastic about the project, for enhancing teaching and learning activities". Teles and Duxbury (1991, 50)

Online Databases

Online databases are organized collections of data that can be accessed via CMC. Utilizing theseresources, a course provider can maintain local databases of relevance to both students and faculty. An easier solution than maintaining local databases is to provide access to external databases. A growing number of such databases are now available via CMC networks. At Murdoch University, Howse (1991) stated, the directory of library services that are accessible via Internet is seventy pages long. In the same way, students and faculty at The Ohio State University have access to at least nine major libraries and a number of databases via Internet (Dixon 1991). CompuServe users can access the Academic American Encyclopedia, Dissertation Abstracts, ERIC, Magazine Database Plus, and Peterson's College Database. In an article on library services to off-campus students, Bazillion and Braun (1992) argued that the online library catalogue for the Brandon, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan universities provided a way to teach research skills to all their online students. A sample of a paper describing one specific database is available for the ICDL Database for distance education at the Open University in the United Kingdom (Melton and Ismail 1993).

Online Journals

Online journals are periodicals that are distributed to subscribers via CMC networks. They are increasingly important resources for information and learning. Supporting this statement, U.S.News & World Report (1994, 60) claimed that more than 2,700 newspapers experimented with one or another kind of electronic venture in 1994 compared to only 42 in 1989. Strangelove (1992) has compiled a directory of about 35 electronic journals and 90 newsletters that are available via Internet. Utilizing these resources, teachers have encouraged and helped students to subscribe to online journals and to use them as an integral part of a course or as a supplement to the course work. In a paper considering CMC's potential for pre-service and in-service teacher education, Marantz and England (1993, 76) stated that they used the electronic journals DEOSNEWS and NETWEAVER as up-to-date and accessible educational resources. Gunawardena (1992, 63), describing her experiences from a graduate course on theory and practice of distance education at the University of New Mexico, stated that the students found DEOSNEWS and the On-line Journal of Distance Education and Communication to be invaluable resources for their research papers.

Online Applications

Online applications are software programs that can be executed on a remote computer via a computer network. The remote session may be established using for example a modem connection or the Internet Telnet service. The online applications include a range of applications from software development tools, via specific applications for statistics, economical analysis, and so on, to computer-aided instruction (CAI) applications. The following two examples present experiments from the NKI Electronic College described by Paulsen (1992a).

As a part of the Introduction to Computer Science course, Lindland used the EKKO online multiple-choice database (EKKO-base) for the first time in the Fall 1989. The students could download a number of multiple-choice questions, then spend the time they needed to figure out the answers, and finally upload their responses for automatic scoring. EKKO-base is further described by Quale (1990 and 1991). In another trial at the NKI Electronic College, Børsum taught a programming course that allowed the students to access the host computer's Cobol compiler. Although it was more convenient to use a local microcomputer compiler, the experiment showed that remote students can access host computer applications, such as compilers, software for statistical analysis, and tools for the development of databases.

Hiltz and Turoff (1978, 309 and 310) contended that CAI has suffered from a lack of the incorporation of structured communications and that it will require the integration of CAI systems with computer conferencing systems to allow the encompassing of the total educational process. In an article on integrating CAI with computer conferencing, Lauzon (1992) described how VITAL, a computerized course authoring system, was utilized together with the TCoSy conferencing system in a communication process course at the University of Guelph. Online, students just selected VITAL or TCoSy from a menu. Five VITAL multiple choice quizzes provided immediate feedback to the learners. Each quiz was available online for about three weeks and the students had three chances to pass the quiz. The quizzes were designed to facilitate lower-level learning to prepare students for higher-level learning in the conferencing system. In conclusion, Lauzon (1992, 44) reported that the evaluation suggested that instruction provided via CAI and computer conferencing can engender positive attitudes toward computers and communication technology.

Kaye (1991, 43) mentioned the French insurance company, Union des Assurances de Paris, as an early example of a corporation that has provided CAI via the company's national computer network. The employees can, both from home and work, access CAI material to study French, English, mathematics, physics, information technology, law, economics, and insurance. Kaye (1991, 48) further stated that a combination of CAI material accessible via the Alitalia airline's computer network, self-study texts, and so on, has cut the costs of face-to-face training programs by 70%.

Software Libraries

In addition to accessing remote online applications, students may download application programs from remote software libraries so that they later can execute the programs on local microcomputers. Such application programs are available from a number of host computers. Internet provides a standardized file transfer protocol (FTP) to gain copies of software applications, and a large number of the popular PC-based bulletin board systems have software exchange as their main activity. One way to apply such resources in education is to provide online software libraries with relevant educational software for the students. Boston (1992) wrote that the Houston Community College System in several courses provided courseware that students could download and study off-line. He (Boston 1992, 50) especially mentioned the use of courseware in teaching history, economics, and data communications. The history and datacommunications courseware was designed by the course instructors while the economics courseware was provided by the publisher of the textbook. Some faculty, however, resisted developing courseware because it required more work than they got paid for. Referring to his personal and professional growth experience as a teacher, Boston (1992, 57) concluded that: "One feels the renewal and satisfaction that comes from creating new courseware, from improving it, and from seeing it used successfully by students miles away, students who are themselves thrilled to be learning this way."

Online Interest Groups

An online interest group (OIG) is a group of people with a common interest who convene via CMC. There are thousands of OIGs that can be accessed via international CMC networks, and it can be argued that they all have some sort of educational use. Howse (1992) stated that more than 1,000 scholarly lists are distributed via Listserv on Internet and that over 1,000 international newsgroups, carrying more than 250,000 items every day, can be accessed at Murdoch University.

There are many documented examples of CMC-based OIGs that are relevant for education. Bull, Harris, and Drucker (1992) described experiences from the electronic academic village in the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia, U.S.A. The electronic village was based on a CMC system that linked teachers in the public schools, students in the teacher education program, and faculty at the University. In addition, the system linked the participants to teachers across the nation and in other countries. The system provided an OIG environment in which people could exchange thoughts and ideas.

Friedman and McCullough (1992) presented a project linking English teachers from seven rural high schools in the United States. The OIG was organized as a computer conference at the Bread Loaf School of English. Pierce (1992) explained how CompuServe and BITNET have been used worldwide by researchers in education. The purpose of these OIGs was to facilitate communication among researchers who wanted to share and compare findings about education and to communicate with consumers of research in education. Braatane (1993) presented Teachers in Network, a BBS based cluster of OIGs, open to all teachers in Norwegian secondary education and sponsored by the Norwegian ministry of Education. Stewart (1993, 859) reported use of OIGs in the Schools Sharing Information Network in New Zealand. Odasz (1992) described the Big Sky Telegraph CMC system that linked one-room schools in rural Montana, U.S.A. The mission of the system was to empower rural residents through the sharing of knowledge access skills among rural teachers. These accounts show that access to OIGs obviously have been of value to students in teacher education programs.


An interview was described by Seaman and Fellenz (1989, 70) as: "a presentation in which an interviewer asks questions of one or possibly two resource persons before an audience. The resource persons are knowledgeable about a previously determined topic of interest to the audience and should have been informed about the kinds of questions that will be asked, especially those that will open the interview. Questions may be prepared in advance, improvised by the interviewer as the activity progresses, submitted to the interviewer on small cards by members of the audience, or a combination of the above."

Etzkowitz (1989) reviewed e-mail as a communication and interviewing medium. His article discussed an experiment in using e-mail in qualitative social research in which the face-to-face focused interview was adapted for electronic use. The article presented the concept of the focused interview and its electronic adaption as well as a comparison between e-mail and face-to-face focused interviews. Etzkowitz concluded that the e-mail interview combines characteristics from both formal and informal interviewing techniques and that it: "is emerging as a hybrid of the structured written questionnaire, the focused interview, the anthropologist-informant relationship and the longitudinal panel study" (Etzkowitz 1989, 531).

An example of an online interview was presented by Paulsen (1992e). In the introduction to the interview he described how the interview was conducted via Internet:

This interview with Bruce Scriven, program chair of the 16th ICDE World Conference, was conducted via e-mail. The first set of questions was posted in January. In February, a second round of questions was posted to clarify and elaborate on the questions and answers. Finally, after the additional information from the second announcement flier was included, the interview was dispatched to Bruce Scriven for approval. Except for some technical problems with lost messages, this was an interesting experience using an interview technique that can be recommended.

A more concrete example of an educational application of an interview could be to give the students the following assignment: Each of the small groups could conduct an e-mail interview, focusing on a topic that is relevant to the course, and post the interview to the class.

One-to-one Techniques: The E-mail Paradigm

The techniques included in this section are learning contracts, apprenticeships, internships, and correspondence studies. These techniques are characterized by a one-to-one relationship and by individualized teaching and learning. The teaching and learning are facilitated in the communication process. So, computer-mediated communication can be an effective support for these techniques when the communication can be conveyed by written text. On the other hand, one may contend that some of these techniques depend so much on personal relationships that frequent face-to-face meetings may be necessary.

Learning contracts

A learning contract is a technique that can be used to individualize the learning process.According to O'Donnell and Caffarella (1990, 134), it is "a formal agreement written by a learner which details what will be learned, how the learning will be accomplished, the period of time involved, and the specific evaluation criteria to be used in judging the completion of the learning."

Marantz and England described their experiences at Empire State College with a learning contract carried out via CMC:

Not only was none of the value of face-to-face contract mode lost, but much more was added. Online together, we developed a learning contract, "Telecommunication in Education: exploring the future," and carried the study to completion using all capabilities of the medium - email, BITNET communication, database file transfer, a CAUCUS conference, and PHONE "chat" - in a way that enhanced learning for each of us. It involved close reading, intensive discussions and critical argument, a broadly ranging survey of users, and the development of three substantive papers. We found that by maximizing CMC strengths and identifying potential shortcomings, this electronic "distance" study achieved at least as much, and often more, than what face-to-face tutorials provide by way of "close" collaboration and meaningful mutual learning. (Marantz and England, 1992)


An apprentice is a learner of a trade who has agreed to work for a number of years in return for being taught. Levin, Haesun, and Riel stated that "Patterns that we've observed in instructional electronic network interactions resemble those described in face-to-face apprenticeships.... Thus we may see emerging a new pattern, 'teleapprenticeships', with some of the properties of face-to-face apprenticeships." (Levin, Haesun, and Riel 1990, 211) The skills to be learned by online apprentices are predominantly cognitive in nature. In an article discussing cognitive apprenticeship on global networks, Teles stated that "Online apprenticeship, also called teleapprenticeship, refers to apprenticeship mediated by access to masters and peers on computer networks....In this environment, online apprentices can build and share knowledge through goal-oriented learning interactions with peers, experts, and mentors, and through full-time access to specialized sources of information." Teles (1993, 271). He further illustrated mentorship and peer collaboration as two approaches to online apprenticeship. In the following, mentorship and peer collaboration is discussed in more detail.

Mentorship: A mentor is a wise and trusted advisor and helper to an inexperienced person. Daloz (1990, 223) stated that effective mentorship is akin to "guiding the student on a journey at the end of which the student is a different and more accomplished person. In a formal learning situation, mentoring functions can be understood as variously providing support, challenge, and vision."

For more than a year, Kort (1991) corresponded by e-mail with a disadvantaged seven-year-old boy in Atlanta. With an average of two letters per week, the transcripts of the correspondence filled a one-inch binder. The exchange format, similar to a Socratic dialogue, was intended to engage the boy in an exploration of scientific material. Kort stated that the boy's literacy and communication skills improved dramatically as his scholarship, attitude toward school, and self-confidence progressed from problematic to exemplary.

Teles (1993, 274) stated that many literature and creative writing classes in Canada provide students with access to online mentors, such as poets, authors, and English professors. In one example, a student submitted a class assignment poem to a professional writer, newspaper columnist, and English professor and asked this mentor for stylistic improvements. The request initiated a one month learning interaction of suggestions, responses, and revisions that resulted in a poem improved in prose, images, and rhythm.

Peer collaboration: An illustrative example of peer collaboration apprenticeship in Digital's corporate network was provided by Gundry:

... that conferencing networks offer the potential for learning outside formal educational channels was brought home to me in the case of a young man who works in our group. This man is 21, and is a specialist in VAX system management, hypermedia, and DECwindows/Motif programming. He joined us four years ago having completed a Digital-sponsored information technology awareness course in the local town, after leaving school at 15 with almost no qualifications. Virtually everything about his specialties that he has learned since he joined Digital has come from participation in conferences. He has attended a couple of formal training courses, but he has gained most of his expertise through conferencing. When he has encountered a work-related problem that he cannot solve himself, his first reaction is to consult the network, and then to search and research for the answer or for someone who can tell him the answer. (Gundry 1992, 173)

Mason (1993, 577) reported that the final assignment at the Online Education and Training course at the Open University included a peer-assesment exercise. The plan was to give potential online teachers experiences in marking online work, but there was a general revolt against the idea of peerassessment. According to Mason, two possible reasons for this could be that the students had reached their limits of experimental tolerance or that they resisted more self-directed work.

Teles (1993, 277) related "Writers' Link", a program where grade four students wrote short stories and submitted them to online peers for revisions. Review groups of three to five students gave feedback to the authors. With the support of their classroom teachers, the reviewers identified several aspects of the stories that should be praised and critisized. Through this process, both authors and reviewers learned about revisions and sentence structures.

Tillyer (1993) described his experience with e-mail pen pals to be very satisfying. Tillyer enlisted a group of sociology students from Arizona State University as pen pals for his upper level English as a second language (ESL) writing class at City College of New York. The ESL class used a cultural anthropology reader as the text and the sociology students as consultants. Tillyer concluded that e-mail was satisfying to the students because it allowed them to write something that was meaningful both to themselves and to their pen pals.

Dagiene (1993) reported on peer reviews of computer code in a project of distance teaching of Informatics at the Lithuanian Young Programmers School. In this project, the team solutions of a programming assignment was distributed to all teams for examination and evaluation. Each team was asked to choose some of the solutions for detailed examination and evaluation according to a given set of rules. Dagiene concluded that distribution of the solutions ensured cooperation among distance students.


Internship is a technique allowing students to practice a future profession under the guidance and supervision of qualified professionals. Presenting the experiences with international electronic communication projects at Preston College, in the United Kingdom, O'Donoghue (1993, 637) reported that he introduced student centered in-service training to reduce faculty work load. Reporting from the experiences teaching a upper secondary biology course in Norway, Sande and Eide (1993) stated that computer conferencing facilitates the use of students as assistant teachers. They further stated that the student teacher scheme worked very well and that the students looked forward to their weekly teaching assignments.

Wired, a California-based magazine, announced an online internship this way: "If you love net.stuff, are Unix literate, and want to help us migrate Wired from paper to electrons, this internship is for you. Lousy pay, fabulous opportunities. Please send resume and references to: (no snail-mail, fax, or carrier pigeon submissions, please)." (Wired 1994, 70)

Correspondence Studies

One definition of correspondence study is suggested by Moore (1990, 346): "Correspondence study is that form of distance education in which the learning is directed or facilitated through communications in print and in writing, although these communications might be supplemented by other media."

Comparing traditional correspondence assignments with on-line correspondence assignments at NKS in Norway, Fjuk (Fjuk and Jenssen 1992, 6 and Fjuk 1992, 34) reported that on-line correspondence may be faster and that it has the potential to be more efficient if the teachers utilize modified standard response files. However, teachers with experience from traditional correspondence courses complained about inconvenient procedures for file transfer and a lack of possibilities to annotate and comment with "red ink". The same observation was offered by Kaye (1989, 17) who stated that in written correspondence tuition tutors should evaluate, annotate, and grade written work submitted by students. Hence, there are certain advantages to using paper - students receive their work back with the tutor's comments and annotations against the relevant parts of the text. When assignments are submitted electronically, current CMC systems require the student's text to be sliced into a series of discrete messages so that the tutor can include text-based comments.

The Electronic University Network (EUN) provided a framework of communication services and administrative procedures for organizations that offered distance education courses online. Courses and programs from several traditional colleges and universities were available through the EUN. The EUN did not provide computer conferencing for group communication, just e-mail for one-to-one communication between the student and his tutor. For each course, the students received Protege, a software package comprising a communication software, a text editor, and a course-specific module. The tutors used another software package called Mentor. The EUN lacked group communication facilities. Without these, the EUN may be regarded as a distance education organization that had upgraded traditional correspondence courses to more immediate e-mail courses. (Electronic University Network 1991)

Hoffman (1993, 393) described the following six kinds of e-mail feedback that was used in second language professional courses at the City Polytechnic of Hong Kong. 1) Response to questions about assignments, 2) teacher comments inserted in passages in which students asked for critique, 3) teacher comments inserted in assigned drafts, 4) elaboration on responses to questions, 5) information for individuals or groups of students, and 6) summative comments and grades. Comparing face-to-face teaching and e-mail, Hoffman concluded that e-mail appeared to produce more effective and expanded feedback for students, fuller exploitation of the principles of process writing, and greater satisfaction for teachers and students.

One-to-many Techniques: The Bulletin Board Paradigm

The techniques discussed in this section are characterized by presentation to students by one or more individual experts or by interacting experts. The learners are usually not invited to take part in the interaction, so the communication is typically conducted in a conference or bulletin board system where students have read only access. The techniques discussed are lecture, symposium, and skits.


In a concise description of a lecture, Knox (1987, 87) stated that a lecturer is an "expert [who] presents participants with an organized in-depth presentation, often accompanied by audiovisuals and questions and answers."

In a CMC system, a lecture could be presented as text posted to a bulletin board. It could take the form of complete articles, excerpts of articles, study guides, outlines, or statements that prepare later discussions. The technique could be especially useful when a guest expert is invited to contribute to a part of a course.

A very early example of an online lecture was described by Hiltz (1985, 11) who conducted an intensive "electure" (electronic lecture) for about 100 participants on the Source in the Fall 1982. The lecture was presented in sections of one to two pages each, and one section was added each day for a week. Each segment was followed by balloting and discussion. After the experiment, the evaluators concluded that the "electurer" tended to take a less dominant role than a face-to-face lecturer, and that computer conferencing made the postelecture interaction less of a question-and-answer period and more of a free-for-all discussion.

In a study of conferences at NKS in Norway, Johnsen (1992, 88) described the use of lecture conferences. The best example was the Public Administration conference which had just 26 notes; 18 of them were posted by the teacher, and the rest of the notes were posted by the ten students. The lecturer dominated the conference completely, posting contributions that were several pages long every second week. The total number of lines posted to this conference equaled another conference with 170 notes.

In an article describing his experiences in teaching three computer programming courses for the humanities via Bitnet, Johnson (1993) found that the students had to be allowed to work at their own pace. He uploaded all lectures, datafiles, exercises, and solutions onto a network listserver and allowed the students to retrieve them whenever they preferred. In conclusion, Johnson (1993, 5) stated that "there is no doubt that it is worthwhile to offer courses such as Computer Programming for the Humanities via computer networks because students can thus complete classes that would not be available to them in any other way."

Harasim (1987, 132) argued, though, that delivering lectures online is awkward, because it requires instructors to write and students to read much text on a screen. Hence, online lectures would not likely be attractive to students or instructors.


Sisco defined a symposium as "a series of presentations given by two to five persons of notable authority and competence on different aspects of the same theme or closely related themes. The symposium tends to be formal in nature because of the authorative presentations. However, once the presentations are given, questions are encouraged and accepted. Rarely, do the invited speakers converse with one another and almost never does one of them interrupt another during the formal presentation of ideas. A program chair typially organizes the symposium and is in charge of the actual proceedings." (Sisco 1990, 285)

The Bangkok Project (Anderson 1993, Anderson and Mason 1993) was organized as a pre-conference to the 16th ICDE World Conference on Distance Education held in November 1992 in Bangkok, Thailand. The project was an experimental venture aiming to link distance educators on all major electronic networks. Presenting the project, Anderson explained:

"Six internationally renowned scholars volunteered to serve as 'First Speakers'. The First Speakers started each of the 6 topics by uploading 5-7 screens of information and issues for discussion. A volunteer host, served each topic discussion as facilitator and moderator. The information provided by the First Speakers, as well as subsequent questions, comments and rebuttals were distributed across a group of between 20 and 30 different computer conferencing systems or networks by volunteer 'porters' who screened or filtered information provided by participants for relevancy and coherentness." (Anderson 1993, 32)

During the six week symposium, about 240 messages were posted by various participants in: "at least twenty states of the United States, from five different sites in Canada, from several parts of Australia and the United Kingdom, and from New Zealand, Norway, and Venezuela." (Anderson and Mason 1993, 12). Finally, the authors concluded that: "electronic networking can provide cost-effective, yet meaningful, interactions among distance education professionals." (Anderson and Mason 1993, 15)

Another example was provided by Davie and Inskip (1992). At a master's level course on program evaluation offered through the Department of Adult Education at The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, practicing program evaluators visited the class. With some individual instruction, the three visiting experts were able to use the system (PARTICIPATE) conveniently and without difficulty. Further, the experts had the opportunity to read the previous course discussion and, hence, adapt their contributions. Davie and Inskip concluded that the experts enjoyed the experience and indicated willingness to contribute in later courses.


Laird (1985, 136) defined a skit as: "a prepared enactment, with precise dialogue provided for the 'actors,' who are usually students reading their roles from scripts."

In CMC, an instructor could conduct a skit by using more than one user ID. One simple example that could be developed into a skit was provided by (Turoff 1982, 77) who stated that he has on occasion posed as an anonymous student to ask himself the questions he wanted to be asked. He perceived skits as a technique that can be helpful in "breaking the ice" with a new class.

Many-to-many Techniques: The Conferencing Paradigm

A characteristic of the techniques presented in this section is that all participants have the opportunity to take part in the interaction. Such interaction is the most common application of educational CMC and it can be facilitated in open or closed computer conferences. The techniques discussed are debate, simulation, role play, case study, discussion groups, transcript based assignments, brainstorming, delphi technique, nominal group technique, forum, and project group.


Seaman and Fellenz (1989, 65) wrote: "A debate is a structured discussion during which two sides of an issue are presented and argued by two or more individuals within a given time period." Another explanation was offered by Knox (1987, 88): "Similar to a lecture or panel, but two or four debaters argue two sides of an important issue to clarify differences and related reasoning."

Clark (1992a and 1992b) organized a CMC debate about war protesters and freedom of speech in February 1991 as a part of the "What's in the News Telecomputing Project" at the Pennsylvania State University. The participants were fifth graders at Meadowvale Elementary School in Johnstown and sixth graders at Robb Elementary in Lock Haven. The debate centered on a proposition that stated United States citizens should not stage protests in times of war. Before the debate, neither team knew which position it would be assigned, so each had to research the issue and learn as much as it could about both points of view. The affirmative side supported the proposition and the negative challenged the affirmative. The object of the debate was to see which of the teams could do a better job of presenting the case. Two students from the university debate team and a doctoral student in history were enlisted to evaluate the debate.

Clark (1992a, 58) offered these guidelines for an electronic debate with regard to participation, preparation, coordination, and evaluation:

Participation. A debate could engage two classes that agree to participate actively, two teachers who know how to telecompute, one impartial coordinator who knows how to telecompute, an experienced debater to help students learn the process, and two or more evaluators familiar with the proposition.

Preparation. Give the coordinator a list of curriculum-related issues, become familiar with the evaluation criteria, and decide whether a winner will be declared. Set up speech deadlines within a four-week framework, and agree on a maximum word length for each speech. Organize classes into teams by role or by speech, and have groups research both sides of a proposition

Coordination. The coordinator should formulate and announce the proposition, randomly assign groups to affirmative or negative, and channel speeches between the two sides. Further, the coordinator should mediate the debate, keep team identities secret until after the last speech is sent, and enlist evaluators and manage the evaluation process.

Evaluation. After the debate, feedback from the evaluators could be discussed and students could exchange comments on the issue and process.

Clark (1992a, 58) also recalled the sequence of debate events:

Simulations or Games

Simulation can be explained as "imitation of interpersonal or other dynamics, often using ma- terials and roles, to help participants feel as well as understand the dynamics of a complex situation." (Knox 1987, 89)

Discussing simulation and CMC, Hiltz and Turoff stated:

The major defect that most games exhibit, especially educational ones, is that the communications actually used in the face-to-face game environment usually do not reflect the real world. By putting the game into a computerized communications environment, we can program the structures for communications that the game implies. This may include which players in the game can talk to whom and in what circumstances; costs or resources that must be expended for communications; leaks of communication; rumor simulation and unanticipated breakdowns or busy signals. The computer can act as the game controller, scheduling the events to occur and providing the outcomes based on the actions the role players take. One very significant aspect of this flexible degree of control is the ability to control the clock. Because of this, the game can be played in a regulated time manner (such as every week of play representing a year) or in real time. There are many games where playing in real time rather than accelerated time would be beneficial to enhancing the realism, including some of the disaster type games designed to educate people on how to deal with crisis situations. Since people can interact at a time of their own choosing, a computer-based game can go on over days, weeks, or months, just as for a computerized conference. (Hiltz and Turoff 1978, 308)

An excellent example of simulation was the Management Practices course taught via the Electronic Information Exchange System (EIES) by Hsu (1989 and 1990) at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. This course integrated a Business Simulation Game with computer conferencing in a Management Practices course. The students were divided into six groups of four students. Each group represented a company, and each student was assigned a role as CEO, Financial Officer, Operations Chief, or Marketing Executive. These companies competed against each other in a Business Simulation Game, through three phases of the companies' life cycles (start-up, growth, and independence). The game simulated nine years during nine weeks of the course. Each year the students "employed" in each company established crucial input data, such as price, advertising, purchase, production, size of sales force, and so on. The data were submitted to the instructor, who compiled it and executed the game. This process resulted in a set of output data for each company, consisting of units sold, back orders, market share, operating income, income tax, net income and so on. The companies were evaluated based on the final results after nine years. Each company was assigned a private conference in which the employees could discuss the simulation input and output data. In another conference, called Managers' Corner, the students could participate in management-related discussions.

Another example, described by Rawson (1990), was the International Business Negotiation Simulation (IBNS) course. The course was developed jointly by the University of Maryland, University College and the University of Maryland, College Park. The simulations consisted of three half-day workshops, each of which used a computer conferencing-based simulation to teach business executives how to negotiate successfully in a specific cross-cultural business environment. The course setting comprised five nodes: 1) the United States company negotiation team at a U.S. site; 2) the overseas company negotiation team, located in the overseas country; 3) the U.S. company headquarters; 4) the overseas company headquarters; and 5) the simulation manager. The program planners acknowledged that stress and timing are often important factors in negotiations and that traditional, asynchronous conferencing can hardly provide a trustworthy simulation of these important negotiation factors. To ensure that these aspects of negotiation were addressed, the IBNS course used virtual synchronous computer conferencing. The information was technically stored and retrieved as in traditional asynchronous conferencing, but the interactivity approached synchronous conferencing because the participants were present at scheduled hours and were urged to respond quickly.

The Earth Day Treasure Hunt, described by Levin, Toth, and Douglas (1993), involved students from twenty sites. Each classroom was asked to write up five or six treasure hunt clues describing a geographical place. The clues should describe a particular location on earth such as a city, a mountain peak, a lake, etc. and it could include information about latitude, elevation, climate, vegetation, industry, ecology etc. According to Levin, Toth, and Douglas (1993, 558), there were six steps to the Treasure Hunt. 1) Students at each site e-mailed clues describing the location along with the answer to the organizers. 2) The organizers arranged the clues and added map location clues. 3) The clues was sent to the participants a few days before Earth Day. 4) The treasure hunt was conducted on Earth Day and the participants e-mailed a progress report with the locations discovered within one week to the organizers. 5) Results from all participants were summarized and returned. 6) A Merit Certificate was mailed to all participants. Levin, Toth, and Douglas (1993, 560) concluded that most participants enjoyed the Treasure Hunt and commented on the educational value of such projects.

Role Plays

According to Rothwell and Kazanas, role play is "a range of methods in which trainees put themselves in dramatic situations and act out scenes like actors in a play.... There are essentially two kinds of role play: structured and spontaneous.... Structured role play is based on a case study.... Spontaneous role plays are based on momentary experiences." (Rothwell and Kazanas 1989, 415)

A very early example of role play, carried out in a Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education (FIPSE) course, was reported by Hiltz (1986, 98). During the course, a complex setting was described, and the students were assigned roles to play. Each of them was given additional information describing the role he or she was asked to play, and they could use a pen name if they preferred anonymity. Hiltz argued that such role-playing games are usually hard to organize in large classes and that participants may feel too shy or too time restricted to participate effectively in real-time role plays.

In their 1978 book, The Network Nation: Human Communication via Computer, Hiltz and Turoff (1978, 307) argued that games and role playing is "one of the most promising exploratory subjects" for computer conferencing. They further stated:

Once the group has compiled item lists (such as roles, action options, consequences, and environmental factors) and the relationships among these, we can incorporate the design of a generalized game controller that will allow the generation of an event-sequenced scenario-game in (computer conferencing) form. This means that the group can play out the "world" model or Gestalt that resulted from their contribution of judgments and views. Such a result also becomes a helpful vehicle for conveying to others what the group has arrived at and discovering if others agree or disagree."

Further, Hiltz and Turoff (1978, 309) stated:

The role playing could probably be done more realistically through the computer than in some of the face-to-face acting games used, especially if the student were not able to tell which of the other players were students, faculty, or real-life jobholders playing at their convenience from their own terminals.

Goodman (1992) described how the University of Michigan used the Confer CMC system to involve schools around the world in two different role plays. In the Arab-Israeli conflict simulation, groups of students were assigned roles as countries in the Middle East, the United States, and the U.S.S.R. Other groups took on roles as representatives for the West Bank, the PLO, the Moslem and Christian factions in Lebanon, and so on. In the United States Constitutional Convention role play, historical figures who played important roles in shaping the U.S. constitutional history were revived to discuss the Constitution. Groups of students played the roles of Thomas Jefferson, Martin Luther King, Jr., and so on.

Ragsdale and Kassam (1993) described the International Communications and Negotiations Simulation (ICONS) project at the Teletech school in Ontario, Canada. The Teletech school had many newly arrived immigrants among the students and in the simulation, students became negotiators representing their countries in a series of issues. The issues negotiated were arms control, international economic problems, nuclear proliferation, and human rights. The simulations took place in the Confer system at the University of Maryland and it continued for several months. The first weeks were spent in preparation, the actual simulation took four weeks, and the last few weeks were spent in the debriefing. Ragsdale and Kassam (1993, 681) argued that the students were given specific tasks and that they were evaluated in well defined ways. They further stated that the simulation was a success as far as the students did negotiate and they did produce solutions that was included in student papers.

In the Fall 1988, Johannesen taught an Information Systems course via the EKKO conferencing system (Paulsen 1992f, 28). In a conference, she introduced an assignment that described a company planning to invest in a new office automation system. The students were assigned roles as user, accounting officer, project manager, labor union representative, and so forth. Over a period of about fourteen days, the students were to elucidate the different facets of this project reflected through the different roles.

Manuel (1991, 22) reported on a role play initiated to discuss the extension of Hertbury airport in the United Kingdom: "Nine teams had been assigned terminals at the various schools which have access to Education 2000's electronic conferencing system, known as Ebenezer. Each team was assigned a character such as Sidney Primrose, managing director of Herts Road Haulage, Sir Peter and a handful of environmental busybodies." Further, Manuel (1991) pointed out that CMC role playing is easily monitored and stored for later analysis and that it is useful for long simulations.

The Tall Pines fantasy role play was another documented example. Here, each student assumed the role of one of the authors presented in the class readings and defends the author's positions. Comparing CMC role plays with face-to-face role plays, Davie and Inskip (1992) argued that the extended time in CMC courses allowed the role plays to be more comprehensive. In addition, the simulated discussion between the "authors" helped the students to understand the represented theoretical positions.

The Planet Project was an application of e-mail centered round the imaginary planet X where school children played roles as space voyagers who settle on planet X. There, they invent topography, mythology, etc. and share experiences, problems and decisions with "voyagers" from other schools via e-mail. Clifford and Warren (1993, 151) argued that the children stretched their use of language and form because they had to use their language to create the reality of planet X.

Case Studies

A case study can be explained as a "discussion of a prepared case situation, which helps participants understand and practice problem-solving and decision-making procedures" (Knox 1987, 89). An alternative explanation was offered by Seaman and Fellenz: "Generally [case study] refers to a description of a real and relevant situation that is complex enough to warrant analysis (Seaman and Fellenz 1989, 111). Marsick (1990, 226) stated that cases typically include three interrelated components: a case study or report, case analysis, and case discussion."

Rasmussen (1993) described some experiences from Nordreisa upper secondary school in Norway using the "My World is Your World" case study in teaching English as a second language. The case was based on the UN report "Our Common Future" from the Brundtland Commission and sponsored by The Netherlands' UNESCO Committee. Schools from countries such as the USA, Australia, England, Indonesia, the Netherlands, Russia, New Zealand, and Norway participated. The schools received a videotape and the Brundtland report along with a case description and a schedule. The case introduced these three rounds of topics:

For each round, the topic was analyzed in the local classrooms. Then the analysis was distributed via e-mail to the participating schools for discussion.

According to Rasmussen (1993, 693), there was no doubt that international e-mail is a rewarding activity to most students if it is well organized. He also stated that the work emphasized student independence and an investigative attitude. He further described the role of the teacher as that of an adviser, helper, and administrator.

Discussion Groups

Knox, (1987, 88) explained discussion this way: "Participants exchange ideas face to face on a topic of shared interest in a group typically between six and twenty for about an hour, depending on topic and group size." Discussion groups may be implemented as buzz groups, subgroup discussions, expanding groups, and colloquies.

Buzz groups are "small clusters of learners who are temporarily grouped together for a short period to address a topic presented by a facilitator." (Seaman and Fellenz 1989, 131)

In subgroup discussion, the "Audience divides into small subgroups for discussion of ideas presented, questions for speakers, implications." (Knox 1987, 88)

The expanding group strategy "allows the size of the group to change during an activity. Groups start with a small number and are increased in size with each round of activity." (Seaman and Fellenz 1989, 130)

In a discussion of colloquy, Seaman and Fellenz (1989, 139) stated: "A simple definition of the word colloquy is "to talk with." As a structure for a learning situation it retains this basic notion of talking together but establishes a format that makes such conversing feasible among members of a large audience."

These discussion group techniques can be employed by establishing separate conferences or e-mail distribution lists for each of the groups. In some systems, the participants can establish these groups themselves, in other systems this has to be done by a system operator. The grouping often necessitates thorough planning and explanation.

In a comparative study of communication process and outcome in face-to-face groups versus computer conferencing groups, Hiltz, Johnson, and Turoff reported that:

There were two to three times as many communication units in the face-to-face groups consisting of five members each as in the computerized conferencing mode of communication during the same elapsed time. Group decisions were equally good in the two modes, but the groups were less likely to reach agreement in the computerized conferencing mode. There were proportionately more of the types of task-oriented communication associated with decision quality in the computerized conferences. (Hiltz, Johnson, and Turoff 1987, 225)

Cooper and Selfe (1990) reported their experiences with computer conferencing during two years of graduate and undergraduate courses at the Michigan Technological University. There, the students were asked to discuss course readings and issues. Cooper and Selfe stated:

At their best, these computer conference discussions are what we often hope in-class discussions will be: discussions in which everyone investigates problems and ideas of common concern. The discussions are focused on the topics of the course and explicitly bring in ideas presented in the readings. But because entries in computer conferences are written, students do not have to compete for the floor and can say as much as they want to without being interrupted, although they still must be responsive to the interests of their classmates if they don't want to be ignored. (Cooper and Selfe 1990, 848)

Reporting from two online graduate courses at the Ontario Institute of Studies in Education, Harasim (1987, 133) concluded that collaborative group learning based upon group discussion and interaction among learners was effective online.

Facilitating a discussion on-line is in many ways similar to facilitating a discussion using face-to-face techniques. According to Carlson, the facilitator needs to:

help people get started, give them feedback, summarize, weave the contributions of different folks together, get it un-stuck when necessary, deal with individuals who are disruptive or get off the track, bring in new material to freshen it up periodically, and get feedback from the group on how things are going and what might happen next.... (Further, the facilitator needs to) communicate with the group as a whole, sub-groups, and individuals to encourage participation. (Carlson 1989, 6.11)

Based on his experiences as designer and facilitator of online courses at The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), Davie (1989, 83) reported that he introduced two group assignments in a course rather than only one. First, Davie presented a short assignment for groups of two students. Then, he combined pairs of learning partners into groups of four or six. Davie further contended (Davie 1989, 84) that students liked the experience of writing together and that they found two strategies helpful. The first was to log on to the system at the same time to speed up the communication process, and the second was to pass drafts of papers back and forth.

Phillips, Santoro, and Kuehn (1988) described the use of CMC in a small group performance course. They argued that instruction in such courses is often ineffective because of the instructors' inability to effectively monitor group discussion. Using a computer network has three benefits: 1) instructors can closely monitor progress in the groups; 2) students receive detailed feedback about their performance of communication skills in their groups; and 3) the instructional staff can increase their monitoring efficiency to effectively advise more groups than in noncomputerized group performance courses.

Another example of discussion groups was described by Johnson-Lenz and Johnson-Lenz (1990) in an article about the Living on Purpose course, offered as a collaboration between Chinnok Learning Center and Living on Purpose. Before the course, the participants signed a covenant to keep each other's items confidential. Online, as a part of the course, participants answered questions such as "What is important in your life?" and "What do you think of yourself?" Participants must scrutinized their lifestyles to formulate answers to share - in writing - with the group. Many people found it less frightening to share their inner feelings and thoughts via computer conferencing than to do so face to face. In this way, technology may facilitate valuable human interaction between people who feel comfortable with the medium. In the course, "a talking stick" that represented permission to speak was passed around a circle. Each person spoke his or her truth in turn while everyone else listened with respect. This virtual circle concept encouraged everyone to express opinions and avoid reticence.

Based on his experiences from a graduate program offered through computer conferencing at Boise State University, Eisley (1991, 38) described the following thirteen discussion formats for CMC that could help to keep discussions focused, productive, and interesting:

The critique. The students could be asked to point out the strengths and weaknesses of a proposal and then suggest improvements. It is possible to ask the students to restrict their contribution to one or two comments so that the critique is not exhausted before all students have commented.

The group report. A group of students could work in a restricted conference. A summarized report from the work could be presented in a public conference and followed by questions from the other students.

Twenty questions. The moderator could act as a client and ask the students to narrow down the client's needs through an interview.

The poll. The moderator could pose a question and ask the students to register their votes on the issue by posting an e-mail message to the moderator.

Timed disclosure. The students could be asked to review an article or comment on an issue and post it to the teacher via e-mail before a deadline. At a certain point in time, the teacher could share all the comments with the class. In this way, students could make their first contributions without too much influence from dominant peers.

The assigned debate. Students could be assigned to affirmative and negative positions and asked to debate an issue.

Free association. The students could be asked to express their thoughts and ideas on a subject without too much structure of the discussion format.

The hot seat. One student could be asked to "sit in the hot seat" and the other students could be asked to pose questions to him or her on a specific topic.

The Socratic dialogue. First, the teacher could ask a question, then one student could answer it, and then the teacher could ask a new question. In this way, every other comment would be from the teacher.

The shot gun. The teacher could post a number of related questions at the same time. Then, each student would be asked to answer whichever ones appeal to him or her.

Go around the circle. Each student could be asked to respond to the same question, and when all students have contributed, the topic could be closed.

Guided discovery. The class could be asked to pose questions about a research report so that the teacher could reveal the results when the students hit on questions that were addressed in the research.

Blind mans's bluff. The moderator could pose a purposely misleading statement and let the students discover the false premise through discussion.

Transcript Based Assignments

Davie (1987, 14) stated that "one of the main advantages of a computer conference is that the medium provides a complete transcript of the course interactions". Building on this observation, Davie and Wells (1991, 21) suggested the following three types of transcript-based assignments to promote student reflection:

[First,] students might be required to retrieve all the comments they authored during the course. The assignment could then ask the students to reflect on their contributions and provide a statement of the overall framework or perspective embodied in them.

A second possibility is to ask students to pull together all the comments related to a particular topic and to write an essay discussing which comments they agree with and why or to critique the comments from the perspective of a particular theory.

A third possibility is concerned with improving the student's analytic and writing skills. Too often, students write to please the teacher. This contribution is graded and then ignored by both parties. Instead of this dead end process, students can be asked to retrieve an earlier note or assignment and rewrite the work either to make it more effective, or to reflect the current state of learning. This kind of recursive learning can help the student to build skills in a way that is simply not feasible in the face-to-face classroom. (Davie and Wells 1991, 21)

These techniques resemble the traditional observation team techniques described by Seaman and Fellenz (1989) as listening teams, audience reaction teams, and fishbowls. Listening teams are "small groups of learners who are assigned to listen for specific information during a presentation. The assignment of topics prior to the presentation provides the listener a structure for organizing the information presented. The division of labor among several individuals or groups allows the listeners to specialize in one aspect of the presentation with the assurance that others are critically analyzing other aspects of the presentation. Through discussion after, all points of the presentation are shared." (Seaman and Fellenz 1989, 137)

The audience reaction team technique is similar to the listening team approach. However, "members of an audience reaction team need not restrict their remarks to the end of a presentation. They may interrupt the presenter at any point to seek clarification or to direct the trend of the presentation to the needs or interests of the audience." (Seaman and Fellenz 1989, 138)

The fishbowl technique was explained this way by Seaman and Fellenz (1989, 130):

"The fishbowl strategy involves group members in observations of one another. It derives its name from the analogy of people observing the activities of fish within the controlled environment of an aquarium or bowl. While some group members discuss a topic or perform a behavior related to the assigned task, other members observe them.... After the active group members have completed their activity, the observers will provide feedback to the group."

Discussing the DT200 course at the Open University, Mason (1993) reported that the students had to write a summary of the course conference. The summary should focus on the most important aspects of the discussion and on significant aspects that were not included in the discussion. Mason concluded that the assignment turned out to play a very significant part in the educational value of the course. She pointed out, however, that writing a summary of about 100 conference messages is harder than to summarize a book or a lecture because of the relatively "chaotic" structure of a conference.


Brainstorming is "an interaction strategy used to generate ideas or to help determine the exact nature of content to be discussed. This approach encourages group members to think creatively and to expand upon ideas of fellow group members. The primary purpose of brainstorming is to create a pool of ideas on a topic." (Seaman and Fellenz 1989, 134)

Hiltz and Turoff (1978, 300) stated that in brainstorming, criticism is ruled out, freewheeling association is welcomed, quantity is wanted, and combination and improvement are sought. Further, they suggested that a computer conferencing system "designed to optimize brainstorming would probably limit text items to a small size, might censor items containing negative words and phrases, and utilize stored profiles on individuals to suggest group members. It might also use automated indexing techniques to group and organize items."

One possible adaption of brainstorming to CMC could be brainwriting. Brainwriting is:

"a modification of brainstorming - based on written communication - that could be adapted to CMC. Two variations are common ...: (1) the brainwriting pool, and (2) battelle-bildmappen-brain-writing (BBB). In the first approach, a problem is read to a small group (six is a good number). After group members brainstorm on the problem aloud, they are given several photographs or drawings unrelated to it. Then they write down ideas suggested to them by the pictures. Solutions are read to the group and used to stimulate more ideas. In the second approach, a problem is read to a group. Individuals scribble ideas on a piece of paper. After several ideas are listed on the paper, it is placed in a pool at the center of the group. Individuals remove different sheets, record new ideas on them, and place them back in the pool." (Rothwell and Kazanas 1989, 437)

Hiltz and Turoff (1978, 301) offered that brainwriting is essentially written brainstorming: "Each person writes an idea down and passes it to a neighbor, who must add to it. These pieces of paper are passed around until everyone has commented on every piece of paper. With slight changes, in most (computer conferencing) systems this would mean passing a comment to each participant in turn, to make a required addition before incorporating it into the conference."

In a description of the IBM internal CMC network, Rueda (1992, 97) presented a brainstorming-related activity that took place over four days in September 1991 on the C-LANG FORUM. The activity was initiated by a request for an elegant method of branching over the value of a character string in the C programming language. In the following interaction, nineteen participants from thirteen locations contributed thirty-five entries and nine distinct solutions.

Delphi Techniques

Referencing Dolkey and Helmer (1963, 458), Rothwell and Kazanas (1989, 438) stated that the Delphi procedure is a technique for "obtaining the most reliable consensus of opinion of a group of experts ... by a series of intensive questionnaires interspersed with controlled opinion feedback. It is used to scan the environment to identify possible changes, their effects, training needs, new work methods and approaches, and issues worth exploring." (Rothwell and Kazanas 1989, 438).

Hiltz and Turoff (1978) distinguished between forecasting delphies, in which a group of people come up with a joint forecast, and policy delphies, in which the objective is to develop the strongest arguments for or against particular resolutions. They further expected the following advantages to emerge from computerized delphi:

Besides the reduction of elapsed time to carry out a Delphi via the computer, the other significant impact is the ability for the process to flow steadily and incrementally. In other words, forecasting of one variable or one policy resolution can be examined first in computerized conferencing and carried through the whole process. Alternatively, different items could be in different phases of the process according to the wishes for the group. This provides a greater ability for the group to focus its effort and should result in raising the quality of the result. (Hiltz and Turoff 1978, 293)

Some CMC systems include balloting functions that can support the delphi technique. According to Hiltz and Turoff (1985, 687), EIES provides several voting scales that can be attached to comments. Feasibility and desirability scales can, for example, be attached to a project proposal. The system would then automatically count the votes and display the results. In this way, a delphi group has a tool to make a quick determination of the issues on which they need to focus discussion.

Waggoner (1992) described a computer conferencing delphi that was conducted by a consortium of eight intermediate school districts in Michigan. The consortium examined the question: "What will be the impacts of high technology on the content, delivery, and organization and administration of instruction (K-Adult) conducted by local and intermediate school districts over the next five years?" (Waggoner 1992, 160)

The study contained three components: "a statewide teleconference, a national delphi study, and a future scenarios workshop.... The delphi study was intended to develop forecasting and planning data about a range of questions by explicating the opinion of a nationally distributed panel of experts on technology and education." (Waggoner 1992, 160)

An elaborate, thirteen-step delphi process was developed and implemented, employing eighteen paid experts and the Confer computer conferencing system. Each expert was initially asked to identify and elaborate on the significance of the three most important technological trends or products that will influence education. The responses were compiled into thirty-five issues, and the experts then voted and commented on each of the issues. For a further clarification of some of the issues, nine of the issues were entered into a second round of votes and comments. Finally, the delphi process was synthesized in a set of fourteen findings.

Summing up, Waggoner concluded:

"The group found the potential to be greater than was achieved in this particular case. This was so despite the fact that the group was quite satisfied with the other participants, that the process was clearly communicated, and that they were relatively comfortable with the medium (use of computers and terminals)." (Waggoner 1992, 180)

Nominal Group Techniques

Seaman and Fellenz (1989, 136) stated that the term nominal group technique "comes from its use of participants as individuals - only nominally (in name only) as a group - for the initial stage of idea generation. This approach calls first for the silent generation and priority ranking of ideas by each group member. This is followed by a public listing of ideas usually by asking for each person's top-ranked idea and then moving on to second- and third-ranked ideas until everyone's list is exhausted.... Once this is completed, group members are allowed to discuss the ideas.... After the discussion, a vote is taken in which group members are asked to rank the ideas that have been generated."

A more thorough discussion of the nominal group technique was presented by Korhonen (1990, 247-259). Hiltz and Turoff (1978, 294) noted that the first stage of the technique could be handled by computer conferencing "without the uneasiness that sometimes accompanies sitting around a table and looking at one another without talking." They further (Hiltz and Turoff 1978, 289) imply that computer conferencing is well suited to handle anonymity and that "the introduction of anonymity is ... one of the strongest techniques to prevent conformity to group pressures."

The University of Auckland has developed a groupware system to support synchronous group sessions, and Sheffield and McQueen (1990) reported on the experiences from a management course exercise using the groupware. Two groups of ten students took part in an assignment using the Nominal Group Technique. One of the groups utilized the groupware, the other group used traditional tools such as wall-mounted sheets of paper and felt markers. Both groups expressed satisfaction with: "the technical and the socio-emotional aspect of the discussion" (p. 181). The students using the groupware completed the assignment in less time than the other students, and as the result of the groupware process, they developed a written assignment report.


A forum can be explained as a technique where "participants question and discuss the presentation as a total group." (Knox 1987, 88). Alternatively, a forum can be defined as "an open discussion carried on by one or more resource persons and an entire group. It is used when large groups of twenty-five persons or more meet for the purpose of diffusion of knowledge, information, or opinion. The forum tends to be semiformal in nature and is directed by a moderator. The moderator is responsible for guiding discussion during which the audience is encouraged to raise and discuss issues, make comments, offer information, or ask questions of the resource person(s) and each other." (Sisco 1990, 285)

Forum is a common use of computer conferencing systems in education. Several systems, among them Compuserve, actually use the term Forum as the name of their conferences.

Describing the experiences from a course about distance education and CMC at the University of Oslo in the spring of 1991, Jenssen (1992, 13) reported on a traditional use of an informal CMC forum. First, the moderators and the participants were asked to introduce themselves. Later, the system was mainly utilized as a forum were participants could post questions and receive answers. In addition, the moderators used the forum as a channel for distribution of information. The moderators had not planned any structured discussions and just a few longer threads of spontaneous discussion emerged.

Project Groups

In Andersen et al (1987, 15), a project was defined as a human endeavor which creates change, has composite goals and objectives, is unique, is limited in time and scope, and involves a variety of resources, with different skills, responsibilities, and competence.

Sligte (1993, 798) reported that the European Schools Project (ESP) has expanded to over 200 secondary schools and educational institutions in 20 countries involving hundreds of projects. Many of the ESP projects, called teletrips, had primarily a language-focus.

Riel (1990) described her experiences from the AT& T Learning Network regarding a form of projects she termed "electronic learning circles". She defined a learning circle as a small number of classrooms that interact electronically to accomplish a shared goal in which each classroom acts as a team that contributes to the overall end product (Riel 1990, 450). The following five steps of interaction were suggested (Riel 1990, 450). 1) Teachers and students select a project topic and start communicating electronically with the classrooms with which they are grouped. 2) Each classroom plans a learning task and forwards the plans for discussion within the learning circle. 3) The students work closely with peers in their local classroom as well as with students in distant locations to carry out the learning activities. 4) Each classroom collects, analyzes, and arranges materials for a project report. The reports from each of the projects are compiled into a collective publication of project reports. 5) The collective report is distributed to all participants. Riel (1990, 452) further claimed to have provided educational support to hundreds of teachers in learning circles. She also stated that the circles helped teachers and students acquire knowledge, develop teaching/learning strategies, increase self-esteem, and develop meaningful relationships.

In a later article relating her experiences from the AT& T Learning Network, Riel described global education through learning circles and stated that the aim of global education is "to help students see the complexity of the world through the eyes and minds of people whose viewpoint is very different than their own" (Riel 1993, 221). She further stated that learning circles provide "an effective way to integrate communication technology, classroom curriculum, and the aims of global education." (Riel 1993, 223)

In the global education learning circles, six to nine classes formed a learning circle. Teachers and students sharing academic interests but representing different geographic or cultural perspectives constituted a circle. Each class, together with its teacher, chose and taught one of the projects in the learning circle. Donath (1993) described the AT& T Learning Network experiences of a 9th grade German class that chose a project on xenophobia. The advantages of this and other projects were summarized in this way: "English as a foreign language is used in a realistic communicative situation with mainly native speakers while the topics are interesting enough to be researched locally and discussed internationally. The motivation is not only based on the communicative situation but on the autonomous learning principle as well." (Donath 1993, 209).

In addition to the previous German project, Riel (1993, 229) mentioned these project examples:

  1. Students in British Colombia, Canada asked the other classes to contribute on environmental issues for a collective newspaper.
  2. California classes discussed the whaling industry with Eskimo children.
  3. An elementary class in Canada integrated weather and pollution data from the United States and Australia in a project on weather patterns and greenhouse effect.
  4. Students in Belgium chose a project on waste management.

Riel (1993, 223) stated that: "Studies of network projects have found an extremely low success rate (1-2 percent) among projects that are introduced by individuals on open structure, free-access networks". Learning circles, however, "provide teachers with the necessary direction and support to explore creative ways of integrating communication technology with school curriculum and community programs. The project approach to exploring and solving real problems that characterizes learning circle activities encourages the integration of different subjects helping to place knowledge and skill in the context of their use in the adult community." (Riel 1993, 234)

Finally, Riel (1993, 235) claimed that teachers involved in learning circles regarded "their own professional development as more significant than the enhancement of student learning."

Another example is the NKI Electronic College Project Assignment Course, taught via the EKKO system by this author, in the 1991 Spring semester (Paulsen 1992a, 8). The course work involved collecting information, both by doing interviews and a literature search. An important goal was to make the students accustomed to project management and cooperation. A second main objective was to teach students to produce a written report of the project results. The students were encouraged to find a project related both to knowledge obtained through the NKI Program and to their job. They were asked to form project groups of one to three students.

Each student received two Norwegian textbooks through regular mail. "Goal Directed Project Management", also available in English (Andersen, Grude, Haug, and Turner, 1987), is a general-purpose textbook for project management. It emphasizes that project development comprises people, systems, and organizations. The other book was written as a guide to project work for on-campus students at the NKI College of Computer Science. In addition to the textbooks, the students received a fifteen page study guide that was developed for both correspondence students and EKKO students. It comprised extra guidance for distance students, course requirements, and assignments. Because the study guide was completed a few days after the course started, it was distributed via EKKO.

Twelve students, ten men and two women, enrolled in the course. For most of them, this was the 10th and final course in the program, so they were all advanced computer conferencing users, with no need for user support. Most of the students enrolled in more than one course during this semester. The course started the first week of February 1991, and the final project report was due May 10th. During this period the students had to complete four assignments. The assignments were not paced, that is, they had no due date. The first assignment covered the theory from the textbooks. Each student had to turn in a short essay via e-mail. In addition, the students were asked to present project ideas in the class conference. In the second assignment the students had to form a project group and present their project task, milestone plan, and responsibility chart. The third assignment asked each group to write a progress report, and the fourth assignment asked for the final project report.

The teacher's job was to comment on the assignments and help the students whenever they had questions about their projects and the project management tools. Most of this feedback was routed via e-mail to each specific group, but information of general interest was posted on the class's bulletin board, or in the class's conference.

Describing the experiences from on-line project work at the NKS College in Norway during the Spring 1989, Fjuk (Fjuk and Jenssen 1992, 7 and Fjuk 1992, 34) reported that students experienced peer dependence and reduced flexibility. Due to these two factors, NKS decided not to include obligatory on-line project work the following semester.

Drayton (1993, 215) described the Eratosthenes Project in which students and teachers on LabNet estimated the circumference of the earth by simultaneously measuring the angle of sun rays at two locations in different latitude. LabNet was used to coordinate the data collection and to share the findings. According to Drayton (1993, 217) the project demonstrated how the network could facilitate learning through project design, coordination, data collection, and sharing of results.

Prims (1993, 668) presented collective construction of materials and structured gathering of data as two basic models that have been used in Catalunya, Spain. Examples of collective construction of materials mentioned were: Magazine Production, Gathering of Tales and Legends, and the collective written tale of Penelopy. Penelopy was a fictional 10-year-old girl who travelled from one village to another in a journey covering 26 schools. When she visited a school, the students introduced their school and village to her. In addition, the students had to write a description of her way from the previous school. Among the projects involving structured gathering of data were: Meteorological Data Collection and The Millenium Game. In the first project, each school collected a set of meteorological data which was compiled into a common database. In The Millenium Game, schools compiled records for a Catalan history database.

Sternheim and Sternheim (1993, 849) presented a list of telecommunication projects and activities with the intent to illustrate how teachers had used SpaceMet, a microcomputer based bulletin board system for teachers and students. Among the project listed were The Acid Rain Project in which classes shared and compared data from middle and senior high schools, The Weather Data Project that linked schools in the United States, Canada, and Australia via K12Net, and The Mung Bean Experiment that studied the germination and growth of mung beans exposed to gamma rays. Sternheim and Sternheim (1993, 845) argued that projects require: "a good facilitator or moderator, a 'critical mass' of participants, realistic time lines, and a simple concept.

Kristensen (1993, 526) mentioned that a computer network of seven primary schools in western Norway was used to exchange meteorological data via a mailing list. A database program was available for the students to compile and organize the data collected. Also using a database for registration, Gjerløw (1993, 304) mentioned an acid rain project (Milda) conducted by secondary schools in Norway. In this project, students registered and discussed precipitation pH values. Among other projects, Anttila and Eriksen (1993) referred to the Acid rain and Aquadata projects. They concluded that "Many telematics projects have proved to have a positive effect on the quality of the work and the motivation for students as well as for the teachers. It improves the communicative foreign language use and increases intercultural consciousness." (Anttila and Eriksen 1993, 103)

Stefansdottir (1993, 833) mentioned two projects conducted at the Ismennt network in Iceland. In the Geographical Project, students from five locations exchanged information about their local areas. One part of the project was for each group to plan a two day tour of their location for a visiting. The resulting itineraries included both visits to shopping malls and moose hunting and the teachers maintained that the project made the geographical locations more interesting for the students. In The Counting Bird Species project, the students were asked to count as many species of birds as possible and a standard notebook was distributed to the observers via a conference. Some of the participating classes focused on birds, some on computer communication, and others on outdoor activities.

Summary of Pedagogical Techniques utilized in CMC

The techniques presented here are by no means meant to constitute an exhaustive list of pedagogical CMC techniques. They represent, however, a comprehensive array of examples that show the gamut of techniques that are available for teachers, program planners, and designers of computer-mediated communication courses. Based on the examples found in the literature review, some techniques seem prevalent and others seem rare. The review showed, though, that practitioners have a wide range of techniques to choose from.

One may criticize the approach used in this literature review for relying too much on techniques developed for face-to-face teaching. The approach could be regarded as viewing new paradigms through a rear-view mirror and as marching backwards into the future. However, comprehension of accumulated knowledge is a necessary step in the evolution of education, based on computer- mediated communication.

Discussion of Techniques not Found to be Utilized in CMC

Several of the techniques frequently discussed in the reviewed adult education literature were not applied in this review of pedagogical CMC techniques. Since this review has showed that so many of the traditional adult education techniques have been adapted to CMC, the following discussion suggests how some more techniques could be used in CMC. The techniques discussed are in-basket exercises, panels, committee hearings, cognitive networks, and jigsaws.

In-basket Exercises

The in-basket exercise "derives its name from the manager's in-basket or mailbox. It is a simulation strategy in which items that might appear in a manager's box are presented to participants, who must then make a decision on the proper strategy for responding to each item" (Seaman and Fellenz 1989, 83).

The in-basket exercise could be an excellent technique for CMC. E-mail can take away some of the restraints of a face-to-face exercise and keep a time pressure which cannot be accommodated by correspondence courses. Automatic recording of time may be a useful feature in negotiations where time is critical. However, correspondence including brochures, stationaries, graphics, etc. cannot easily be sent to an e-mail in-basket.


Knox (1987, 87) gave this brief explanation of a panel: "Two or more speakers make presentations on different aspects of an issue, otherwise similar to a lecture." A more extensive explanation was presented by Sisco (1990, 285): "A panel is defined as a small group of three to six persons, who sit around a table in the presence of an audience and have a purposeful conversation on a topic in which they have specialized knowledge. The panel is typically informal in nature, usually lasts under an hour, is guided by a moderator who starts the session and sustains discussion, and has no audience participation other than watching and listening. Because of the latter characteristic, the panel is usually followed by a forum which does allow verbal participation by the audience."

A panel could be organized in a bulletin board system were each expert in a group presents a paper, an idea, or a statement on a well defined topic. The panel then continues to discuss the topic lead by a moderator. Audience participation could be limited by giving the audience just read access, not write access, to the bulletin board.

Committee Hearings

Seaman and Fellenz (1989, 144) stated that: "By definition, the committee hearing is the questioning of a person or several persons by a group. It is basically an interview to which the dynamics of group interaction have been added. It can be structured to deal with several individuals by questioning more than one at the same time or by interviewing them in sequence."

External examiners, faculty, and even co-students could participate in a two or three day online examination period. The candidates could prepare a hard copy or upload the examination paper to their challengers some time before the online examination starts. During the examination period, the challengers are expected to post questions about the examination paper which the candidates must then answer in a plenary conference. The advantage of this compared with a traditional oral examination is that both questioners and answerers have more time to contemplate, than in a hectic one hour face-to-face examination. The online examination is, of course, much more interactive than a traditional written examination.

Cognitive networks

In cognitive networks (cognet) "all participants do some reading and answer the same questions before they gather - but only several people read the same material. When they gather these "homogeneous" groups meet to prepare group answers which they share in reports to the other teams." (Laird 1985, 144)


Describing jigsaws, Laird states that "... participants may be given parts of a design or of an organization; they assemble these into a quot;System" or an "Organization Chart." They may be given the elements of a letter or a report; they put it together into a logical outline. They may be given the key variables of a decision-making problem; their task is to select from the pieces of the jigsaw the proper action to take for every conceivable combination of variables." (Laird 1985, 151)


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About the Author

Morten Flate Paulsen, Assistant Professor, The NKI Department of Distance Education, P.O.B. 111, 1341 Bekkestua, Oslo, Norway, E-mail:, World Wide Web:, Telephone: +47-67588800, Fax: +47-67530500

Morten Flate Paulsen is specializing in distance education, computer-mediated communication, and electronic journals. In 1986, he designed the EKKO computer conferencing system in Norway. This system, especially designed for distance education, became the core of the NKI Electronic College. In 1991, at the Pennsylvania State University, he established the Distance Education Online Symposium (DEOS). He was editor of DEOSNEWS for two years and moderator of DEOS-L for one year. In 1994, he initiated A Network for Distance Education Reporting from European Activities (ANDREA).

Morten Flate Paulsen has used computer conferencing for teaching since 1986 and he is currently doing research on "Pedagogical Techniques for Computer-mediated Communication". From this work he has published a number of articles on computer-mediated communication. Some of his articles that are relevant to session 3 are available in print as listed below or online from: World Wide Web:


Listserv: DEOSNEWS archive at

The ICDL database

Paulsen, M. F. 1995. An Overview of CMC and the Online Classroom in Distance Education. In Computer Mediated Communication and the Online Classroom, Volume III: Distance Learning, eds. Z. L. Berge and M. P. Collins. Cresskill, New Jersey: Hampton Press.

Paulsen, M. F. 1995. Moderating Educational Computer Conferencing. In Computer Mediated Communication and the Online Classroom, Volume III: Distance Learning, eds. Z. L. Berge and M. P. Collins. Cresskill, New Jersey: Hampton Press.

Paulsen, M. F. 1994. Some pedagogical techniques for computer-mediated communication. In Collaborative Dialogue Technologies in Distance Learning, eds. M. F. Verdejo and S. A. Cerri. Berlin: Springer Verlag.

Paulsen, M. F., B. Barros, P. Busch, B. Compostela, and M. Quesnel.1994. A pedagogical framework for CMC programs. In Collaborative Dialogue Technologies in Distance Learning, eds. M. F. Verdejo and S. A. Cerri. Berlin: Springer Verlag.

Paulsen, M. F. 1993. Pedagogical Techniques for Computer-mediated Communication. In Teleteaching:Proceedings of the IFIP TC3 Third Teleteaching Conference, TeleTeaching 93, eds: G. Davies and B. Samways. Amsterdam: North-Holland.

Paulsen, M. F. 1992. From Bulletin Boards to Electronic Universities: Distance Education, Computer-mediated Communication, and Online Education. 1992. University Park, Pennsylvania: The American Center for the Study of Distance Education. Pages: 67

Paulsen, M. F. 1992. A goal-oriented method for establishing an electronic college. In Impact of Informatics on the Organization of Education, eds B. Samways and T.J. van Weert, 113-118. Amsterdam: Elsevier.

Paulsen, M. F. 1992. Innovative uses of computer conferencing. Telecommunications in Education News 3(3):4-5.

Paulsen, M. F. 1992. Recommended reading. CAUSE/EFFECT 15(2):53-55.

Paulsen, M. F. 1991. The ICDL Database for Distance education. The American Journal of Distance Education 5(2):69-72.

Paulsen, M. F. 1990. Organizing an electronic college. In Proceedings of the Third Guelph Symposium on Computer Conferencing, 87-97. Guelph, Ontario: University of Guelph.

Paulsen, M. F. and T. Rekkedal. 1990. The Electronic College: Selected Articles from the EKKO project. Bekkestua, Norway: NKI Forlaget. pages: 131.

Paulsen, M. F. 1990. EKKO: experiences. In Media and technology in European distance education, ed. A. W. Bates, 235-39. Milton Keynes: Open University for the EADTU.

Rekkedal, T. and M. F. Paulsen. 1989. Computer conferencing in distance education: Status and trends. European Journal of Education 24(1):61-72.

Paulsen, M. F. 1989. EKKO: A virtual school. In Mindweave: Communication, Computers, and Distance Education, eds. R. Mason and A. Kaye, 201-7. Oxford: Pergamon Press.

Paulsen, M. F. and T. Rekkedal. 1989. Experiences with the EKKO computer-conferencing system at NKI. Epistolodidaktika, the European Journal of Distance Education 1989(1):66-76.

Paulsen, M. F. and T. Rekkedal. 1988. Computer conferencing: A breakthrough in distance learning or just another technological gadget? In Proceedings of The World Conference of the International Council for Distance Education, 362-365. Oslo, Norway: International Council for Distance Education.

Paulsen, M. F. 1987/1988. In search of a virtual school. T.H.E. Journal (Dec./Jan.):71-76.


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