There is growing recognition of the important role conversational quality has in online learning, particularly within virtual organizations. Discerning the quality of online conversations poses a serious challenge for online designers and researchers. The purpose of this article is threefold, namely to: (1) provide an overview of conversation theory and conversational pragmatics, (2) identify a taxonomy of conversations and key conversational competencies for online learning conversations within virtual organizations, and (3) offer practical guidelines for evaluating online learning conversations within virtual organizations using conversational pragmatics. This article is based on prior work supporting that a disciplined approach to conversation can offer virtual organizations a tool for gauging online learning communities. It should be useful to those who study, develop, evaluate and moderate online communities for e-learning, e-business, e-government and other related domains.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Conversation Theory: Conversation theory is a social constructivist theory of learning and instruction, which assumes that individuals learn by constructing symbolic representations acquired through conversational interaction and attention directing strategies
Conversational Competence: Conversational competence is the ability to comprehend and produce conversation based on one’s knowledge of conversational procedures and strategies, social context, speaker relations, and cultural practices.
Virtual Organizations: Virtual organizations are a type of learning organization comprised of networked groups of people dedicated to enhancing their capabilities and advancing organizational goals.
Conversation for Explanation or Clarification: Conversations aimed at providing enough clarity and detail for something to be mutually understood.
Conversation for Organization: Conversations aimed at building on incomplete information by seeking information and exchanging conjectured explanations.
Online Learning Communities: Online learning communities (or virtual learning communities or networked learning communities) are learning communities that are computer-mediated by interconnected computers. Communication characteristics of virtual learning communities include asynchronous and synchronous communication, high interactivity, and multi-way communication.
Conversational Pragmatics: Conversational pragmatics is an area of study concerned with how people comprehend and produce conversation.
Conversation for Justification or Resolution: Conversations aimed at reaching an acceptable decision about something through consensus or voting.
Conversation Design: Conversation design refers to the design of learning conversations. It encompasses a broad range of methodologies and strategies for leveraging learning processes through conversation.
Conversation for Commitment: Conversations aimed at committing someone to something, typically an action or event.