Of course, while chat, IM and mobile messaging were designed as synchronous platforms, it is possible to use them asynchronously, with users returning to a conversation when convenient, a common trend seen in mobile messaging. It should be noted that there is a grey area between messaging services and traditional VoIP services like Skype, with many companies nowadays providing both messaging and audio/video call options.
The educational advantages of synchronous communication include the following:
- backchannel conversation: facilitating background discussion while the main educational delivery or interaction occurs on a different platform or in a face-to-face setting (which has become a common practice at conferences)
- collaborative conversation: allowing students to work collaboratively outside class on group projects
- organisational conversation: allowing students to pose questions to teachers and peers, and teachers to send notifications or reminders to students
- multimodal interaction: exchanging text, images, videos and animations, and engaging in text-based, audio or video discussions (which is useful for language learners, who can draw on visual support for their interactions)
- permanent logs: allowing conversation transcripts to be preserved and revisited (which is again useful for language learners, but also for students conducting research interviews)
In synchronous communication, students may produce a large amount of language at a relatively high speed, which means that the focus tends to be on communication of key ideas rather than accuracy of expression or complexity of arguments. Some teachers find that synchronous communication is better suited to social interaction or organisational and administrative matters, while asynchronous discussion is generally more appropriate for topic- and task-focused interaction. Many blended and online courses make use of both, treating them as complementary modes of interaction; in these cases, asynchronous discussion is usually the main educational channel, while synchronous communication acts as a supporting background channel.
Chat & IM
More information about mobile messaging is available on the Publications on Mobile Learning page.
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