"Though telelearning breaks through many barriers to education, it is not a
nirvana. Much richness of interaction is also lost:
· The Trouble With Text: People become concerned with the appearance
of their text. Typos detract from one's online image. Grammar implies
· No Physicality: Without facial expressions, voice intonations, or
gestures, relationships can be strange; jokes and irony can lead to
misunderstandings. The distancing safety of the medium can promote casual
inflammatory and hurtful remarks.
· Vulnerability: Participants feel inhibited because their words are
preserved forever in a computer database with the potential for unknown
future use by others, perhaps out of context. Who owns your commentary and
who has control over it's future use? The student or the teacher? What
about intellectual property rights?
· Information Overload: Large telelearning classes force users to
follow gigantic discussions requiring a tremendous amount of reading in
addition to the class reading list. Heavy required searching and browsing
of virtually infinite online resources can also be overwhelming.
· Lack of Tools and Standards:Limited tools for linking, relating
comments, references, and ideas; and poor mechanisms for viewing and
manipulating these linkages, or making decisions online. Also international
standards for graphics and sounds are only just emerging."
"The key is to facilitate collaborative learning:
· Don't Lecture: Long but coherent postings often produce silence.
Use short open-ended comments that invite response.
· Be Clear About Expectations: Define what students must do for the
whole course, for each module, each assignment and each time period.
· Be Flexible And Patient: Guide the conversation but don't dominate.
Remember curriculum will be affected by the diversity of opinions from
different world views. Be open to change and acceptance of new views on
· Be Responsive: Especially at the beginning, ensure that every
student's comment gets a response. If no else replies, either respond
yourself by a private message or by mentioning the original author's
comments in one of yours.
· Don't Overload: Contribute no more than one long comment a day, or
less if students are active. Several short notes are better than one long one.
· Monitor and Prompt: Read the system status report frequently.
Encourage those falling behind with private email. Prompt those who are
reading but not writing. If no response after one week, telephone and
· Encourage Group Work: Give assignments to small groups. If a class
is large, divide it into two or more discussion groups. Assign individuals
within groups the role of "teacher" for small portions of the course.
· Teach Netiquette: Explain how to avoid insulting others and
straying off the course topic.
· Write Weaving Comments: Summarize and focus the discussion with
comments that weave together various threads of interest.
· Do Electronic Housekeeping: Move or delete items that do not belong
to the discussion. Organize and model the use of keywords and references to
· Establish Norms and Set Rules: Give credit for good participation.
· Close and Purge In Stages: Moribund discussions need to be closed
slowly, giving members a chance to save messages.
(From Learning Networks: A Field Guide to Teaching and Learning Online by
L. Harasim, R. Hiltz, L. Teles, and M. Turoff, MIT Press, 1994.)"
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