Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Communication Behaviors and Trust in Collaborative Online Teams

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Communication Behaviors and Trust in Collaborative Online Teams

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

This study investigates preservice teachers' trust levels and collaborative communication behaviors namely leadership, feedback, social interaction, enthusiasm, task and technical uncertainties, and task-oriented interactions in online learning environment. A case study design involving qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis was employed. The sample consisted of 32 (24 female, 8 male) 3rd year foreign language education students who enrolled in the "Instructional Technology and Material Development" course at Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey. The participants were involved in a four-month online project in the 'Learning to Teach with Technology Studio' (LTTS) course at Indiana University in the US to create a technology supported project-based learning unit for foreign language learners. At the end of the fourteen-week period, the participants filled out the online Group Trust Questionnaire consisting eight five-point Likert-type items and two open-ended questions. To identify the participants' online interactions, online discussion archives of the groups were analyzed. The findings showed that the groups with different trust levels showed different communication behaviors throughout the study, and midpoint of the group life was found critical moment for increasing or decreasing pattern of communication behaviors.

Keywords

Group trust, Communication behaviors, Collaborative online teams

Introduction

With the advancements in the Internet and communication technologies, CMC has contributed to interaction among learners, and between learners and instructors in distance learning environment. Since interaction between the social environment and the individual is considered as a critical factor in facilitating learning (Dewey, 1916; Vygotsky, 1978), the use of collaborative learning in education is promoted even more today. Many studies on collaboration have shown the advantages of collaborative learning over individual learning (Johnson & Johnson, 1989). As well as supporting individualized learning, CMC environments support collaboration among distance learners.

Although there are empirical studies that show the contribution of synchronous communication technologies to student learning, they are not as effective as asynchronous communication technologies in supporting collaborative learning among learners. Asynchronous communication technologies provide students with time to think about a problem, and the opportunity to discuss possible solutions in a group independent from time and space (Hiltz, 1998). Because of their flexible and independent features, these technologies are essential for creating collaborative and cooperative distance learning environments (McIsaac & Gunawardena, 1996). Even though asynchronous communication technologies are the most common applications in current online courses (Hiltz & Wellman, 1997; Klobas & Haddow; 2000, Stacey, 1999), the field lacks the sufficient research studies that examine social interaction in online learning environments.

The term cues-filtered-out perspective is used to describe antisocial and impersonal communication in CMC (Culnan & Markus, 1987). In line with this perspective, social presence theory (Short, Williams & Christie, 1976), lack of social context cues hypothesis (Sproull & Kiesler, 1986), and media richness theory (Daft & Lengel, 1984) are the main approaches that argue antisocial and impersonal communication in CMC, and they point out that media eliminate social cues. They assert that major features of CMC affect the development of relationships in online environment and result with antisocial and impersonal communication. However, Gunawardena (1995) argue that CMC "creates a unique social climate that impacts interactions and group dynamics online" (p.148).

Social presence is defined as "degree of salience of the other person in the interaction and the consequent salience of the interpersonal relationships" (Short et al. …

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