The short review we undertook suggests that the issue of maintenance of communication in synchronous discussions is a challenge: On the one hand, there are many shortcomings in synchronous discussion tools that may impair sharing beliefs or coordinating actions, hencemaking it difficult tomaintain high-quality communication. On the other hand, this medium is attractive, and its persistence enables simultaneous multiple interaction. The persistent on-going record of interaction between discussants should play a central role in the maintenance of communication in synchronous discussions.
Description of the research: Studying maintenance of communication in synchronous discussions in a university course
The context of the present study is educational. Discussions took place in a University course on The Role of the Teacher in Classroom Learning. One of the themes of the course was to focus on the role of the teacher in structuring interactions in group work. In addition to theoretical lectures, the teacher provided a CMC graphical tool for facilitating group e-argumentation, and for reflecting on ways teachers could intervene during discussions. This tool named Digalo enables the management of discussions and the representation of their argumentative processes and components among participants. Using Digalo consists of co-creating maps built of written notes inside different shapes that represent the permissible argumentative moves for the discussion (or what is called the ontology chosen for the discussion), and different arrows representing different connections between the shapes. The ontology chosen in the course included Claim, Argument, Explanation, Comment, and Question. There are three kinds of arrows: support, opposition, and link. The support and opposition arrows help challenging, refuting, elaborating, or agreeing. In each of the contributions, participants add one shape or more and arrows/links to shapes built by others to articulate own claims, arguments, etc., and then write their contribution inside of the shape(s) they chose. Each participant can locate his/her contribution wherever on the screen and change the location of previous shapes. Each participant receives a distinctive color and an icon that help identifying his/her contributions on the board. Fig. 1 shows the on-going construction of the Digalo map on which we will focus in this paper. Digalo enables three types of synchronicity: (a) synchronous e-discussions with floor control, (b) synchronous discussions without floor control, and (c) a-synchronous discussion.
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