Students' Experiences in Using Chat Rooms as Virtual Classrooms

Students' Experiences in Using Chat Rooms as Virtual Classrooms

Rhoda K. Gitonga, Elizaphan Maina
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0892-2.ch013
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This chapter shares experiences from a group of students who were using the chat rooms as part of instruction in their course work. It also attempts to explain the lessons learnt when one exposes the distant learning students to a different method of facilitation. The respondents were 51 university distance learning students from Kenyatta university in Kenya whose lecturer had created chat rooms as virtual classrooms in their coursework during the May to August 2012 semester. The lecturer's availability at all times was vital to students' success in using the chat room. Using chat rooms as virtual classrooms gave every student in the class room an equal voice as students engaged the lecturer and each other on a common playing ground. This chapter underscores the importance of chat rooms as environments that supports virtual learning for distance learners and encourages learners' participation hence enhancing learner-centered learning.
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Use of chat rooms in moodle for distance learning allows students to communicate in real time to discuss the topics of the course or assignments given to them by the lecturer. It also allows easier access to the lecturer where the lecturer communicates and clarifies topics of discussion. The lecturer can also carry out his/her class virtually by use of the chat room. Distance learning is any program or course offered in such a way that the instructor and the student are separated by physical distance (Wahlstrom, Williams, & Shea, 2003). It means that the program or course is not offered in the traditional classroom. This varies from online courses, telecommuting courses and video courses. Where the courses are offered online, the students at times access their classes from institutional centers where there is free Internet connection since not all students have Internet at home. Making use of Internet resources for distance learning can provide a great advantage to the students and lecturers. Nevertheless, steps must be put in place to make sure that use of Internet resources is done in the most effective way possible. Therefore, the use of chat room in distance learning has become an important tool for online learning.

Use of chat room in learning brings about collaboration among students of different backgrounds. This enhances social component of any course and enable learners to access multiple perspectives of the subject matter (Jonassen, 1997). There are a number of reported benefits for learners in using synchronous communication like chat rooms in learning such as increased participation; increased motivation; increased learner control; and opportunities for skills development (Mynard, 2004).

In an environment where collaborative tools such as chat rooms are in use, online classes cease to be like a medium and they become like a learning platform. At the same time, the online learning software ceases to be a content-consumption tool and becomes more like a content authoring tool where learning is created (Downes, 2005). This means that students have their own personal place and virtual space to create and discuss their work. Moreover, students produce the content by collecting, organizing, interpreting and reflecting on documents and other sources of information. This approach to learning means that content is created and distributed in different ways. Instead of the content being composed, organized and packaged, it is now syndicated, aggregated by students, remixed and repurposed with student’s individual applications to produce final product stored for another student’s reading and use. The chat room gives a student the chance to collaborate online with other students and this promotes interactivity, student-centered learning and peer input.

The aim of this study was to explore the experiences of students in using the Chat-rooms as virtual classrooms for distance learners. The study sought to;

  • 1.

    Find out the students’ experiences in enhancing student-centered learning using the chat-rooms as virtual classrooms for distance learners.

  • 2.

    Lessons learnt in the use of chat rooms as virtual classrooms for distance learners.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Virtual Classrooms: An online classroom that allows participants to communicate, view presentations or videos, interact with learning resources and work in virtual environment. It allows learners to collaborate in real time environment through a web based environment and learning materials can be accessed through a LMS.

Collaboration: The action of working as group to accomplish a task and to achieve shared goals.

Information Communication Technology (ICT): Education ICT refers to all the technology used to handle teaching and learning. This technology includes communication devices such as Videos, content management systems, learning management systems such as Moodle and network devices.

Learner-Centered Learning: A learning model based on constructivist theory of learning that places the learner in the center of the learning process.

Distance Learning: A method of learning in which the learners and the instructors are geographically separated and learning is conducted via the Internet.

Learning Management Systems (LMS): Software that allows instructors to put their course materials online and provides a number of online tools which manages the learning activities. Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment (Moodle) is an example of LMS which is commonly used in higher learning institutions.

Web 2.0: Second generation of the World Wide Web which has a series of technologies such as Wiki, Blogs, Social networking and web applications.

Chat Room: A form of synchronous communication which allows participants to communicate in a real time environment. It allows participants who have a common interest to share information via text or instant messaging.

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