The Role of Video and Text Chat in a Virtual Classroom: How Technology Impacts Community

The Role of Video and Text Chat in a Virtual Classroom: How Technology Impacts Community

Sharla Berry (California Lutheran University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7567-2.ch009

Abstract

Virtual classrooms allow users in a closed network to communicate through talk, text, and video. While virtual classrooms enable synchronous online learning, little is known about how specific components of web-conferencing technology impact students' experiences. In this case study, the researcher interviewed 20 students in an online doctoral program and analyzed over 50 hours of footage from six online classes. Findings indicate that the video and text chat features of the virtual classroom provided opportunities for constant interaction and increased students' engagement and sense of community.
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Literature Review

Universities are increasingly turning to web-based technologies to manage, host and deliver academic content (Dahlstrom et al., 2014; Tess, 2013). Web conferencing software is increasingly used to host virtual classrooms where students and teachers can meet synchronously (Morrison, 2011). There is much variation in the type of virtual classrooms available at today’s universities (Martin, Parker & Deale, 2014). Some institutions rely primarily on audio-only classrooms, while some utilize software that allow for participants to stream synchronous video in addition to audio (Parker & Bonk, 2007). Virtual classrooms typically also allow participants to project and share files and to communicate through text chat. Examples of web conferencing software used in higher education to host virtual classrooms include Adobe Connect, Blackboard Collaborate and Web Ex (Martin, Parker & Deale, 2014).

Virtual classrooms offer many benefits to distance learners. They allow interdisciplinary groups from various locations to come together to work collaboratively and develop ideas in (Patillo, 2007; Sternberger, Deal, Fountain, 2011). Wang (2004) found that the combination of audio-visual elements in virtual classrooms helped improve learning and cross cultural understanding. La Pointe et al (2004) similarly found that virtual classrooms promoted understanding in ESL groups. Duss and Cooray (2014) have argued that the collaborative nature of virtual classrooms allows for global learning networks to form.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Support: Giving and/or receiving social, emotional or academic assistance.

Trust: Feelings that one can be authentic with members of the group.

Learning Management System (LMS): An integrated web platform which houses the collaboration tools used for course content (e.g., message boards and video conferencing systems) as well as student management tools (e.g., grades, rosters and course calendars).

Community: Feelings of connection and closeness to a social group.

Synchronous: Occurring in real time.

Belonging: Feeling that one fits in with the group and has strong connections to the group members.

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