Academic journal article Journal of Education for Library and Information Science

Factors Influencing Online Communication Style in LIS Problem-Based Learning

Academic journal article Journal of Education for Library and Information Science

Factors Influencing Online Communication Style in LIS Problem-Based Learning

Article excerpt

Using Clark's theory of common ground as a heuristic device, this article systematically examines the responses of two significantly different LIS students to the resources for communication afforded by Web-based collaborative software. Social factors such as professional background, prior experience and relationships, learning style preference, and learning environment are also discussed. The communication occurred during an intensive, one-semester online action research course. The findings indicate that the factors influencing online communication styles are complex and multi-dimensional. Further research and deeper analyses of how technological and social factors interact to influence communication effectiveness are needed to support the development of innovative, flexible, and responsive technology-supported learning environments to meet the needs of growing numbers of LIS distance learners.


While much emphasis in earlier years of Web-based education was on developing systems to meet the demand for distance education (DE) that accompanied Internet accessibility, Web designers and educators are now increasingly focus on developing appropriate pedagogical models and teaching strategies to leverage the interactive capabilities of the Web. ' A pioneer of DE in library and information science education, Florida State University's School of Information Studies developed its own courseware and pedagogical models centered on interaction, exploration, individualization, and collaboration.2 Collaborative and community-based models critically rely on effective online communication.

What factors influence effective online communication? This article examines the technological and social factors that influenced differences in the communication styles of two library and information science (LIS) graduate students. The case study on which this article is based examined the learning processes in an online action research course facilitated by the author.3 The two students, Ruth and Sarah (pseudonyms), studied action research and applied their knowledge to independent research projects. The purpose of the study was to examine the co-construction of knowledge and how affect and interaction influence participant understanding of action research. The analyses of learning focused on reflection as an individual critical thinking process and co-reflection as an intersubjective, social critical thinking process. The evidence was derived from course work, pre- and post-course interviews, final questionnaire, and server logs.

John Dewey defined reflective thought as "active, persistent, and careful consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds that support it, and the further conclusions to which it tends."4 Guided by Dewey, Boud et al.5, and Mason6, 1 identified these key aspects of reflection in the student data: (1) being confronted with a challenging question or situation, (2) dealing with feelings related to the challenge, (3) returning to the challenging experience, (4) reframing perspective, (5) making a leap of thinking, (6) integrating the new knowledge cognitively and affectively, and (7) identifying implications for future action.

Co-reflection is a collaboratively undertaken reflective process involving intellect and affect as individuals together explore their experiences and reach new intersubjective understandings and appreciations.7 Through co-reflection, they collaboratively weigh reasons, arguments, and supporting evidence and examine alternative perspectives to achieve a clearer understanding by drawing on collective experience.8 The goal is to transform frames of reference to make them better guides for action. The affective dimension plays an important role in co-reflection, because effective participation in co-reflection requires emotional maturity (intrapersonal and interpersonal) and clear thinking.9

The action research course activities included weekly meetings, weekly readings and assignments, email exchanges, journaling, and conducting a research project. …

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