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Online Communication and E-Learning

Online Communication and E-Learning
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Author(s): António Quintas-Mendes (Universidade Aberta, Portugal), Lina Morgado (Universidade Aberta, Portugal) and Lúcia Amante (Universidade Aberta, Portugal)
Copyright: 2008
Pages: 17
Source title: Handbook of Research on Instructional Systems and Technology
Source Author(s)/Editor(s): Terry T. Kidd (Texas A&M University, USA) and Holim Song (Texas Southern University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-865-9.ch065

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Abstract

The complexities of computer-mediated communication (CMC) are visible in the diversity of the theoretical models that try to explain the implications of electronic communication. The different approaches are not necessarily contradictory, but they emphasize different qualities or characteristics of CMC. In this chapter we review six of the most prominent models: the Social Presence Model; the Media Richness Theory; the Reduced Social Cues model; the Social Information Processing Model; the Social Identity Model and the Hyperpersonal Communication Theory. Initial studies on CMC tend to view this form of communication as impersonal and very limited in expressing emotions and complex social interactions. However, recent research has shown that electronic communication can promote a very rich relational communication and be effective in problem solving situations, in attaining results and in achieving objectives in tasks performed at a distance. The understanding of these communication processes involves a detailed analysis of several variables, such as group communication processes, the different use of verbal and non-verbal communication channels in face to face and virtual settings, and the social construction of the processes of connecting, bonding and building psychological immediacy in mediated contexts. The studies show that in several indicators of group well-being or in task efficacy indicators, better results are obtained in virtual groups, when compared to their face to face equivalents, as long as the time variable is controlled. A relevant aspect to take into account is that virtual groups take more time to socialize and to reach objectives than do face to face groups. In this chapter we discuss some explanatory hypotheses for these somewhat surprising results and analyze their consequences in terms of online education. We suggest that we now have a reasonable understanding of online communication and interaction processes, and that this knowledge should shape the practices of those who work in Online Education and Distance Education.

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