Title: Reflecting on roles: using synchronous CMC to develop a knowledge-building community amongst postgraduates

Authors: Rachel M. Pilkington

Addresses: School of Education, The University of Birmingham, B15 2TT, UK

Abstract: Many authors advocate using computer mediated communication (CMC) to provide an opportunity for collaborative learning. However, establishing why some discussions are successful whilst others are not is difficult. Based on current research, at least three different kinds of role taking are thought to be required. These include community-building roles, management roles and argumentation roles. Adopting these roles in synchronous CMC presents particular opportunities and challenges. After a group of postgraduate students had become familiar with using a synchronous chat facility for weekly tutorials, a ||role-play|| activity was introduced. The aim was for the group to reflect on the kinds of role they needed to take and participate in a discussion in which they each practiced taking at least one of these roles. Students later reflected on the outcome, through group analysis of the chat transcript. In the tutorials following the exercise, students were not asked to play roles. Transcripts of subsequent sessions were analysed to determine the effect of the exercise on students| subsequent role taking and the quality of the discussion.

Keywords: collaborative learning; computer mediated communication; e-moderating; virtual-learning environment; online communities; higher education; synchronous chat; discussion; argument.

DOI: 10.1504/IJCEELL.2003.003271

International Journal of Continuing Engineering Education and Life-Long Learning, 2003 Vol.13 No.3/4, pp.318 - 335

Published online: 07 Aug 2003 *

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