Computer-Mediated Communication in Virtual Learning Communities

Computer-Mediated Communication in Virtual Learning Communities

Lisa Link (Flensburg University of Applied Sciences, Germany) and Daniela Wagner (University of Hildesheim, Germany)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-87828-991-9.ch024
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Abstract

Computer-mediated communication (CMC) can be simply defined as “communication that takes place between human beings via the instrumentality of computers” (Herring, 1996, p. 1) and the technology used in CMC as “media that facilitate the exchange of semantic content, transmitted through telecommunication networks, processed through one or more computers, between individuals and among groups” (Rice, 1984, p. 438). As a concomitant result of the widespread use of computers and the Internet in the curriculum of higher education as well as the inclusion of various forms of online learning, CMC has become a common communication modality in teaching and learning contexts. Although all forms of CMC can be meaningfully integrated into learning contexts, the majority of CMC at present is nevertheless text based and hence the focus of this contribution. CMC plays a pivotal role in the context of e-learning models in higher education that offer students new forms of learning that would not be possible in a traditional classroom environment. Cooperative and collaborative learning, problemoriented and project-based learning, as well as authentic learning in which real-world scenarios are simulated, are some examples. In the context of these types of e-learning models, virtual learning communities as well as smaller virtual teams are often an essential component. The learning objectives of these models are manifold, but they generally include offering students the opportunity to acquire, practice and enhance important key competencies required in their future professional work. Hence, communication and media skills as well as the ability to work cooperatively in a virtual team are just as important as the actual subject matter of the course itself.

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