Following the thread in computer conferences

Kear, Karen (2001). Following the thread in computer conferences. Computers and Education, 37(1) pp. 81–99.



Computer conferencing systems allow students to discuss their ideas and learn from each other. However, the asynchronous nature of these discussions can result in large and complex collections of messages. Threading facilities help students to cope with this by structuring their discussions into parallel ‘conversations’.
This paper discusses an investigation of students’ use of threading in two different conferencing systems. The context for the study was a small-group collaborative assignment in an Open University course. Conference transcripts were studied, and ‘message maps’ were created, in order to investigate the threading links made by students, in relation to the semantic links between the messages. The results show that the way in which threads are represented in a conferencing system can have a significant effect on how students use the system, and on the character of the resulting discussions.

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