Role of Assistance in Computer-mediated Communication in Higher Education

Abstract : This paper reports preliminary findings of a small scale study that address the role of assistance in computer-mediated communication (CMC) in Higher Education. In particular, this study investigates whether the type of assistance in such environments is affected by the type of task used to initiate the CMC, and to see whether the instructors and students offer more or less assistance according to task type. We examine courses which use CMC in the adjunct mode i.e. students used CMC as an option rather than a compulsory learning activity (Harasim, et. al., 1999). The messages gathered from 7 units of an MSc course were differentiated by the nature of the initiating task given by the instructors in the discussion board in the Blackboard System. Where the instructors simply invited the students to discuss any issues related to the unit, this is defined as 'open discussion mode'. Where the instructor has defined tasks with specific goals this is defined as 'closed discussion mode'. Through content analysis, we explore types of assistance used in the discussions according to task type. We used the following definitions of categories of assistance to analyse message transactions, developed by Gallimore and Tharp (1990) adapted in Kirkley et al. (1998). They are: Scaffolding, Feedback on Performance, Cognitive Structuring, Modelling, Contingency Management, Instructing and Questioning. Instructors remain the main source of learning support and enhancement in both modes of discussions, although students do offer support to one another, especially in the open format.
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Habibah Ab-Jalil, Angela Mcfarlane, Tengku Putri Norishah Tengku Shariman. Role of Assistance in Computer-mediated Communication in Higher Education. ALT-C 2004 conference, 14-16 September 2004, 2004, Exeter, Devon, United Kingdom. 3 p. ⟨hal-00190306⟩

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