This study examined the effect of computer-based videoconferencing and text-based chat on mentoring relationships, and compared the findings to those of face-to-face and telephone interactions. The results of this study indicate that protégés in all communications conditions found the mentoring to be satisfying and helpful in reducing stress. The amount of variability assigned to communication mode was negligible, especially when compared to the amount of variability attributable mentors, suggesting that efforts to implement online mentoring should focus on training mentors, rather than on concerns over communication mode effects. The authors hope that these findings will help organizations in implementing online mentoring, as well as encouraging researchers to expand on the findings of this study.
Background: Communication Mode
Different communication modes vary along the dimensions of sequentiality, audibility, visibility, copresence, simultaneity, and cotemporality (Clark & Brennan, 1991). These dimensions and their influence on communications are discussed in the following sections.
Cotemporality, Simultaneity, and Sequentiality
Cotemporality refers to whether a message is received at the time it is sent (i.e., synchronous communication). Simultaneity means that the communicators can send messages at the same time, and sequentiality means that participants’ messages stay in sequence. These three media characteristics regulate the flow and continuity of conversation. Without these attributes, the logical sequence of discussions becomes disjointed, and as a result, the psychological distance between communicators increases, discussion comprehension is reduced, and group members are less satisfied (Hambley, O’Neil, & Kline, 2007; Hughes, Wickersham, Ryan-Jones, & Smith, 2002).
Visibility and Audibility
Both visibility and audibility generate effects on communication through nonverbal cues such as eye contact, hand gestures, facial expression, tone of voice, laughter, and stress patterns. These cues aid in message assessment, production, and comprehension (Driskell & Radtke, 2003; Hidalgo & Massaro, 2007), and provide information, regulate interaction, and express intimacy (Derks, Bos, & Grumbkow, 2007). As a result, one of the primary functions of nonverbal cues is to reduce psychological distance (Hambley et al., 2007; Short, Williams, & Christie, 1976).
Copresence refers to participants located in the same physical setting; however, the effect of copresence is to make the dyadic partner more salient, more “real,” an effect that Short et al. (1976) called “Social Presence.” Social presence is a critical component of satisfaction with communication; for example, students’ perceptions of social presence in online courses are related to their perceived learning and satisfaction with their instructor (Richardson & Swan, 2001).
Key Terms in this Chapter
Co-presence: A communication dimension that refers to participants in a communication being located in the same physical setting. One effect of copresence is to make the dyadic partner more salient, more “real,” while the absence of copresence leads to: (a) reduced other-awareness, (b) more uninhibited behavior, (c) less responsiveness to one another’s ideas, and (d) less public self-awareness.
Cotemporality: A message is received at the time it is sent. Telephone communications have cotemporality, as the listener receives the message as the sender is transmitting it. E-mail, on the other hand does not have cotemporality; messages may be read several days after they are sent.
Social Presence: The degree of salience of the other person in an interaction, and is a function of copresence. Decreased social presence leads to: (a) reduced other-awareness, (b) more uninhibited behavior, (c) less responsiveness to one another’s ideas, and (d) less public self-awareness.
Synchronous Communication: Communication that takes place at the same time. Examples of synchronous communication methods are: face-to-face communication, text-based chat rooms, and videoconferencing.
Simultaneity: Participants in a communication can send messages at the same time. Thus, in a face-to-face or telephone conversation, speaker’s messages may overlap. In e-mail, on the other hand, one person must wait until the message is received until responding. Without simultaneity, the logical sequence of discussions becomes disjointed, and as a result, the psychological distance between communicators increases.
Sequentiality: Messages in a communication stay in sequence. Electronic text-based chat lacks this dimension, as the message receiver may be posting a reply while the sender is transmitting a new message. Sequentiality regulates the flow and continuity of conversation. Without these attributes, the logical sequence of discussions becomes disjointed, and as a result, the psychological distance between communicators increases