This has been by far the most challenging E-Primer to compile - mainly because of the substantial literature that exists. It is a reasonably comprehensive literature review, but the point of it all has been to establish good practice guidelines and orientate the reader to the ongoing conversation about the use of communications tools in e-learning. As usual I have tried to avoid the speculative and focus instead on the actual results of objective studies.
This, from the Introduction:
Communication is at the very centre of education, so it’s not surprising that educators have rapidly adopted recent developments in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) to improve the reach and effectiveness of their teaching. Successes with online bulletin boards first emerged from studies in the late 1980s (Mason & Kaye 1989), and innovation with desktop videoconferencing soon followed. Instructors who want to engage distance learners or interact with their on-campus learners in new ways can now choose from a variety of proven online applications.Updates will continue through this blog. E-Primer 5 is currently half-way through drafting. I welcome any feedback on the work, particularly if major works and ideas have been missed. There are some findings that are actually contradictory to much of the 'common wisdom' relating to online discourse, particularly with regards to social presence.
In this e-primer, you will discover both the promise of formal online discourse (that is, conversation mediated through internet tools) for education, and good practice. Throughout, I encourage you to apply online discourse in ways that are conducive to teaching and learning. The focus in this e-primer is more on the discourse than the technology although, inevitably, we will consider technology. In E-Primer 5, E-xtending Possibilities, we will look at interactive journals (blogs), collaboration through wiki tools, working with ePortfolios, and the potential of social networking tools such as MySpace and Facebook for education. Here, in E-Primer 4, we will limit our attention to synchronous chat, desktop audio- and videoconferencing, and the online bulletin or discussion boards that are common in learning management systems (LMSs). Because LMSs are commonly used in distance education and blended learning courses (MacDonald 2006; Hopkins et al 2008), we’ll look closely at them and their features.
The E-Primer series is made available under a Creative Commons license.