CTI Textual Studies
Q & A


Q I am thinking of experimenting with email and computer conferencing as a way of supplementing my course delivery and tutoring. Can you point me towards some ideas about how I might use these technologies?


There are many case-study accounts of strategies for using email and conferencing to enrich the quality of student discussion and learning available on the web. Three articles in our journal Computers and Texts provide accounts of the kind of innovative, experimental work you seem to be proposing:
Dr James Davila. 'Enoch in Cyberspace', C&T 15.
Joel A. English. 'Metacognition in the Computer-Mediated Classroom', C&T 13.
Kevin LaGrandeur. 'Using Electronic Discussion to Teach Literary Analysis', C&T 12.
Kari Boyd McBride and Ruth Dickstein. 'Making Connections with a Listserv', C&T 12.

The CTI Support Service has produced Primers on the use of computer mediated communication in HE which can be found at http://www.cti.ac.uk/publ/primers/ .

Given that one of the biggest obstacles preventing teachers from using the Web and electronic communications in their teaching is the time it takes to research the tools available and decide which ones are right for them, a new British academic service, based at the University of Plymouth, has been established to provide a comprehensive guide to Web-based teaching tools and learning environments and a series of case-studies evaluating Web-based learning. It can be found at http://www.focus.ac.uk.

David Newlands and Melanie Ward of the Department of Economics at Aberdeen University have produced a paper entitled, 'Using the Web and E-mail as substitutes for traditional university teaching methods: student and staff experiences' which is available at http://www.leeds.ac.uk/educol/documents/000000669.htm

Many of the writings referenced below originated in the context of Distance Education, but a good deal of their strategies for promoting discussion and learning might readily be applied to campus-based learning in HE.

Norwegian academic Morten Flate Paulsen has produced an extensive and tremendously useful list of the range of strategies tutors might adopt in his 'Online Report on Pedagogical Techniques for Computer-Mediated Communication', available at http://home.nettskolen.nki.no/~morten/

The NODE Learning Technology Network publish a list of papers and guidelines based on 'Practitioners' Experiences' in online learning at http://node.on.ca/tfl/experiences/

A similar collection of articles, from the Indiana Higher Education Faculty, can be found at http://www.ind.net/distance_ed/fdpapers/1997/

Zane L. Berge has produced a checklist for the online tutor in an article, 'The Role of the Online Instructor/Facilitator' at http://star.ucc.nau.edu/~mauri/moderate/teach_online.html

Many people would argue that the most powerful IT tools for enhancing learning are the 'lo-tech' communication tools of email and conferencing systems. I'm sure you are aware of many of the arguments for the ways in which these technologies can develop engagement and discussion beyond the boundaries of the classroom, but it might be worth listing some of the claims made for these strategies here:

  • Computer mediated communication (CMC) promotes more reflective participation, as the student can choose the point and the time that they contribute to a discussion.
  • CMC allows and requires all students to participate in a discussion or project.
  • CMC makes it possible for everybody's views to be aired and everybody's involvement to be recorded, overcoming the social barriers to participation that can exist in face-to-face encounters.
  • CMC, particularly via conferencing which can archive messages into particular topic threads, allows participants to refer to the cumulative total of messages received. Therefore, particular points and ideas can be reviewed, revived and revisited more easily than in the seminar room.
  • The tutor can respond to every individual student more flexibly than she can in the classroom.
  • While the one to one conversation between learner and tutor is always and only a one to one conversation, the online tutor can share their single response to an individual query or enquiry with other learners if appropriate. There are obvious time gains here if that enquiry or issue is one that other students would want to have raised.

We cover some of the technical issues involved in setting up projects of this nature in another of our helpdesk answers: http://info.ox.ac.uk/ctitext/enquiry/gen01.html

You might want to consider participating in a short course which focuses on the issues associated with online tutoring and learning. There are several short courses, delivered online, which promote thought about, and practice in, this area: Learning to Teach Online (LeTTOL), (http://www.sheffcol.ac.uk/lettol/index.htm), developed by a consortium of colleges in South Yorkshire; a series of modules in Online Group Working, (http://www.living-it.org.uk/lvt/course_information/index.html#gw) offered by Living IT, and Computer Mediated Tutoring offered by the School of Post-Compulsory Education and Training at the University of Greenwich, (http://gre-guns2.gre.ac.uk/uofghome.nsf), are worth considering.


Q & A

Email CTI Textual Studies

HTML Author:Stuart Sutherland
Document created: 12 March 1999
Document last modified: 25 September 1999

The URL of this document is http://info.ox.ac.uk/ctitext/enquiry/gen06.html