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Article citation: Kinshuk, Nian-Shing Chen, (2006) "Synchronous methods and applications in e-learning", Campus-Wide Information Systems, Vol. 23 Iss: 3, pp. -
Recent rapid improvements in technology and the increasing bandwidth of internet access in most parts of the world have led to an increasing popularity of synchronous solutions for instruction. But real-time instant interaction and possibility of non-verbal information transfer has led to a change in paradigm of how e-learning is being envisaged in its traditional sense. On one hand, it lures academics to fall back to their traditional habits of face-to-face instructions and on the other hand, it promises to provide the best of both worlds. Various new challenges are emerging from the use of synchronous techniques along with some very exciting opportunities of improving the quality of instruction and learning.
This special issue focuses on various innovative methods that are being designed and investigated by researchers and the applications that are being developed and implemented for synchronous learning. The issue includes both theoretical aspects and the practical applications.
Andrea Chester in “Text-based MOOing in educational practice: experiences of disinhibition” describes students’ experiences of using MOOs MUD, Object-Oriented text-based, network-accessible virtual environments and focuses on how to build student confidence in synchronous learning environments and facilitate building of learning communities. Findings indicate that the anonymity provided by such environments is a significant factor in the process.
“The efficacy of online cooperative learning systems: the perspective of task-technology fit” by Charlie C. Chen, Jiinpo Wu and Samuel C. Yang discusses the application of synchronous systems in cooperative learning with particular focus on decision making and intellective tasks. Interestingly, the study finds that the type of task has no bearing on the platform on which group discussions take place in synchronous environments.
Fidas Christos, Kapsalis Vasilios, Tranoris Christos and Avouris Nikolaos discuss the importance of context in the interaction among students and tutors in “Synchronous support and monitoring in web-based educational systems” and propose an interesting, reusable and versatile context-aware service to provide synchronous support in web-based learning environments.
Patrick L Fullick in “Synchronous web-based communication using text as a means of enhancing discussion among school students” studies synchronous intercation using activity theory and finds that the synchronous medium yields significantly rich interactions between students, and critical incidents during such interactions significantly influence the social processes of knowledge-construction.
“Intelligent Discussion Boards© promoting deep conversations in asynchronous discussion boards through synchronous support” by Kausalai Kay Wijekumar and James Spielvogel combines asynchronous intercation with synchronous in an intelligent discussion board to get the best of both approaches. The system incorporates a synchronous response and management system built into the traditional asynchronous discussion board.
Brian Ferry and Lisa Kervin in “Applying synchronous methods during the development of an online classroom-based simulation” use synchronous interaction in an online classroom-based simulation that was designed to provide pre-service teachers with experience in dealing with complex classroom situations associated with the teaching of literacy. They report that this approach contributed to the development of pre-service teacher understanding of the complex work of teachers.
“Successful e-courses: the role of synchronous communication and e-moderation via chat” by Giorgos Hlapanis, Maria Kordaki and Angelique Dimitrakopoulou studies characteristics of synchronous communication in the success of online courses. They identify four categories of languages that are used by e-moderators in synchronous chat, namely social, encouragement, learning and negotiation.
Carmen Taran in “Enabling SMEs to deliver synchronous online training practical guidelines” discusses the need of paradigm shift in the distance education arena if corporations wish to produce learning at a much faster pace in order to gain and sustain competitive advantage. For this purpose, Carmen focuses on enabling SMEs to teach online, using synchronous instructional methods and a rapid e-learning approach.
“Beehive: a software application for synchronous collaborative learning” by Aiman Turani and Rafael A. Calvo describes a web application framework for designing and supporting synchronous collaborative learning. The framework has three distinct abstraction layers: Pedagogical Techniques, Patterns, and Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) components. Turani and Calvo argue that the framework enables teachers to design and use synchronous collaborative learning activities either by using well tested research-based learning designs or by creating their own.
Finally, Bolanle A. Olaniran in “Applying synchronous computer-mediated communication into course design: some considerations and practical guides” analyses why synchronous computer-mediated communication applications have been given less attention in pedagogical literature. Bolanle discusses the problem by considering the deployment of synchronous computer-mediated communication in educational settings and provides various practical recommendations for instructors.
We are grateful for the support of various reviewers who ensured the high quality of this issue: Maiga Chang, Amy Chen, Steve Corich, Sabine Graf, Margaret Hill, Sheng-Wen Hsieh, Meng Hsiang Hsu, Gwo-Jen Hwang, Ren-Hung Hwang, Wu-Yuin Hwang, John Jamieson, Hsin-Chih Lai, Sheng-Tun Li, Kan Ming Lin, Taiyu Lin, Ali Fawaz Shareef, Oyvind Smestad, Ramesh Sharma, Shiang Shyong Tseng, Jarkko Suhonen, Pei-Chen Sun, Errol Thompson, Michael Verhaart, Hansjörg von Brevern, Jingyu Yang, David Jin-Tan Yang, Jingyu Yang, Pao-Ta Yu, Hsio-Ping Yueh, Yuejun Zhang.
We see the collection of papers in this issue as stepping stones in the direction of research in synchronous learning issues and hope they will not only generate discussion among researchers but will also help in the development of robust systems for synchronous learning.
Kinshuk, Nian-Shing Chen