Academic journal article The Journalism Educator

Computer-Mediated Communication: An Experimental Study

Academic journal article The Journalism Educator

Computer-Mediated Communication: An Experimental Study

Article excerpt

Computer-mediated communication systems (CMCS) are widely used in government and industry to deliver electronic mail and conduct conferences on line. Home use is growing as well. Prodigy, one of several large public systems, claims 1.75 million subscribers (Ziegler, 1992). Many academics use computers to communicate with colleagues across campus and around the world (Parker, 1991).

This study investigated the effectiveness of a computer-mediated communication system in supplementing traditional instruction in a media law course.

Computer-mediated communication seemed especially appropriate for the media law class, since its relatively large section size and infrequent meeting schedule made close contact with students by traditional means difficult.

The technology has drawn the interest of some interpersonal communication researchers who have focused on how differences in the medium affect relationships that develop among those who communicate on line rather than face-to-face. Walther and Burgoon (1992) provide an extensive bibliography of such research.

At a few schools, courses (Hiltz, 1988; Kaye, 1990) or entire degree programs (University of Phoenix, 1990) are delivered by computer, often to students living at great distances from the campus. Such systems have also been used in some high school journalism classes (Oates, 1987; Perkins, 1991.

Most computer-mediated communication research has been published in education, computer science, psychology or management journals, rather than those of the communication field. In addition, as Wells (1990) noted in a review of more than 250 literature references on educational uses of computer-mediated communication, "rigorous experimental studies...are a rarity" (p. 3).

Only a few reports exist of the use of computer-mediated communication in journalism education. Lieb (1990) found that over three-fourths of the students in a feature-writing class that used computer conferencing said they would like to use it in other writing classes. He also reported his informal assessment that students did much higher quality work in sections of the class that featured computer conferencing.

Smith, Kim, and Bernstein (1992) offered anecdotal evidence that students in a large lecture class were enthusiastic about electronic mail as a technique for contacting the instructor; that students in a television news reporting class found e-mail helpful in scheduling equipment and finding partners to help shoot stories; and that e-mail proved useful for facilitating peer evaluation of stories in a news writing class.

However, in a study involving several non-journalism classes, Hiltz (1988) found that despite greater satisfaction among students in courses using computer-mediated communication, there were no significant differences in scores measuring mastery of course material.

A different study, of four commercial CMCS, found that female users were more satisfied with the systems than males (Hiltz & Johnson, 1990). This contrasts with findings of numerous studies of other aspects of computerization in which males are generally the more active and satisfied users (Canada & Brusca, 1991).

Computer-mediated communication systems can deliver traditional mass media content, from news articles to research reports. They also can serve as research tools to explore full text and bibliographic databases. However, such functions were not available on the system used at the research site. So, these aspects of computer-mediated communication are not included in this study.


Based on existing research it was hypothesized that:

1. Students using computer-mediated communication would report more satisfaction with their version of the course than students in traditional sections.

2. Students with greater prior computer experience would be more satisfied with the computer-mediated communication process than students with less experience. …

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