Effective use of CHAT in online learning

Grant type: Development (2000-08)
Round: November 2002
Amount awarded £2,500.00
Completed: October 2003
Leader(s): Anita Pincas
Organisation: Institute of Education, University of London
Contact Email: a.pincas@ioe.ac.uk
Address: School of Lifelong Education and International Development, Institute of Education, University of London
Melanie Heard-White
Faculty for Continuing Education, Birbeck College
Professor Gunter Saunders
Director of Online Learning Development, University of Westminster
Start Date: 1 April 2003
End Date: 30 April 2004
Interim report received: 20 January 2009
Final report received: 18 November 2008

The potential for region-wide, national and international, live, inter-active online learning using CHAT - a synchronous textual communication - has been under exploited in both distance learning and to support on campus delivery. This proposal suggests some small scale research that may serve to redress this under utilisation. The research will take account of wide public experience of internet CHAT, especially by the younger generation, and will seek to show how this, now common, public mode of communication can be incorporated into educational provision, so as to benefit learner motivation and participation in the study process either on campus or online.

The focus of most on-line distance courses concerns the use of computer mediated communication through conferencing systems, email, or web based discussion boards. Effective though these are, they are acknowledged as lacking an immediacy as well as in the paralinguistic features of voice and vision. Videoconferencing, which could provide both, is still beyond the access of most users. CHAT, however, can supply the live features of synchronous communication.

The research concept is based on the hypothesis that the immediacy of CHAT lessons conducted by a teacher with a small group of students can play a major role in improving teacher and learning on-line both for distance learners and for the support of students on courses at campus based universities, where circumstances are increasingly demanding more attention to student alienation from formal modes of study, and also requiring greater and greater flexibility in the pattern of attendance. It is the proposers' experience that well structured CHAT lessons and seminars are a valuable, but almost unknown method of teaching for either campus or distant students.

The resulting report will disseminate information about current use of and/or research into learning and teaching methods concerned with the use of chat. Data for the research will partly be drawn from the use of CHAT in the Screenwriting Accredited courses at Birkbeck College, University of London. The resulting report will be placed on a website at Westminster and be made available as a forum for further discussion among the higher education community generally.