February 17, 2001
Reference: Clay-Warner, J. and Marsh, K. "Implementing Computer Mediated Communication in the College Classroom," J. Educational Computing Research, 23(3), 257-274, 2000.
Principle: This article examines the use of computer-mediated communication (CMC) in the college classroom and suggests issues that other instructors should consider when implementing CMC into their classrooms.
Design: The research design is a survey questionnaire that is administered during the first week of the course and at the end of the term to assess student's experiences with LearnLink and their attitudes about computer aided instruction.
Independent Variables: Independent variables included demographic variable, the number of classes in which student had previously used Learn Link, and whether or not student reported having a LearnLink connection at their residence. Openness to using LearnLink and level of previous experience and use and interaction variables were also included.
Dependent Variables: Students' rating of their experience with LearnLink on their course.
Procedures: Three classes were set up to use LearnLink in three different ways with two different instructors. The first instructor only used LearnLink to answer questions and post announcements. The second instructor use sub-conferences to increase participation. An initial survey was administered to assess students' attitudes and level of previous use of LearnLink. If they answered "yes" then a series of questions about their most recent LearnLink experiences were asked. The students were asked to write the month and date of their mother's birth so surveys would remain anonymous. Questions of the follow-up survey were the same as the initial survey with the focus on LearnLink. In addition, students were asked about problems in the courses, assessment of obstacles with LearnLink, and an overall rating of each course.
Results: The results to the initial interest survey were that the students liked LearnLink for asking questions, receiving announcements, assignments, and grades. They did not like LearnLink for testing and turning in assignments or access readings. The end of term survey showed there was no association between gender and use preferences. The student's openness to using LearnLink showed no significant relationship between student's year in school or their openness to CMC. There was also no significant relationship between previous uses affecting their desired use. When factoring in the use and interaction variables there was a significant relationship. These additional variables suggest that the ways in which CMC is utilized has the greatest effect on student ratings.
Comments: Computer access and usage is becoming more and more prevalent among college students. Even if students don't have computers of their own, there is sufficient access to computers at the college to meet their needs. As with any new technology, we are first apprehensive and anxious about using it. But today's college students are ready, willing, and able to embrace computer-assisted learning. I do feel, like the author, that this article left the question unanswered, "does CMC affect student performance?" We always need to know if the we are enhancing the learning environment with our new technology.