CTL1609 – Computer Mediated Communication

‘What does CMC mean to me and my thinking about teaching and learning in an online context?

I understood Computer Mediated Communication, in a very literal sense, to be communication conducted through technological devices – text messages, video chat, email, discussion boards, social media, etc.In Education, I think CMC is often conflated with online/digital learning in general, but I particularly like Steve Jones’ emphasis on the community aspects of CMC. He states that in addition to the technological aspects of CMC, it is “an engine of social relations” (1995, p. 17). Although his collection portrays a vision of CMC that is now 25 years old, the emphasis on the interpersonal and interactional aspects of CMC are particularly relevant when considering learning design through a constructivist lens. I am particularly interested in the concept of Communities of Inquiry (see Garrison and Arbaugh, 2007) or Communities of Practice (see Wenger, 1998) and how digital communication technologies can facilitate the co-construction of knowledge and help build learning communities.

I found the limiting criteria used by Romiszowski and Mason, in which they excluded environments “in which the student interacts with the computer but not necessarily with other people” (2012, p. 1) and their emphasis on highly interactive and multi-way communication to provide an interesting contrast to the “one-alone” and “one-to-many” communication models mentioned in the introductory chapter of Computer-Mediated Communication and the Online Classroom in Distance Learning (Berge & Collins, 1995). This left me a little uncertain as to whether tools like blogs or wikis would fall under the umbrella of computer mediated communication. However, Tony Bates suggests that CMC has evolved into Online Collaborative Learning (OCL), the final phase of which is Intellectual Convergence which often results in “the joint construction of some artefact or piece of work” (2015, p. 132). Thus, I think there is room for these alternative communication models in a CMC environment.

What is online learning?

My understanding of online learning, articulated last semester in the first journal article for CTL1608, is that online learning is a mode, not a methodology. It can be didactic or dialogic depending on the tools and the design. Bates provides a good overview of the broad spectrum of online learning design models, including simply digitizing traditional classroom teaching to instructional design models using ADDIE, to collaborative learning and Communities of Practice (2015). The common thread with all of these models is that they use technology in some way.

That said, I think that some of the unique characteristics of technology and digital spaces have had and will continue to have a significant impact on how education is evolving. The biggest impact being that learners are gaining more control over their own learning experiences. Learning is no longer controlled solely by education institutions, which we can see in the open education movement and the rise of microcredentials, such as Udacity, or Massively Open Online Courses (Parry, 2010). And, as previously discussed, online learning, particularly CMC, has changed the way learners can interact with each other, their teachers, and the content.

I’m interested in all applications of CMC. In the past, I have developed and facilitated fully online courses that used both synchronous and asynchronous CMC (discussion boards and video conferencing). More recently, I have been working on the technological “enhancement” of traditional courses. I have been working to make the digital spaces of our courses more robust, and we have been exploring the possibilities of blended learning and the use of discussion boards. I’m also very interested in looking at whether we can provide opportunities for learner-generated content in our digital spaces, such as a wiki. I’m also very interested in the culture shift to more open learning resources and opportunities.

Eventually, I am hoping to work as an educational developer or curriculum developer supporting faculties across the university and would like to be able to support multiple learning experience architectures (blended, fully online, technology enhanced, cooperative learning, collaborative learning, etc.)

I am interested in studying the discourse of CMC, the applications of different CMC paradigms to education, and the impact of CMC on learning communities.

What three questions do I hope to address throughout this course?

  1. How does computer mediated communication differ from face-to-face communication in the development of a community (of practice or of inquiry)?
  2. What role can sociomaterial interactions have in CMC-rich learning environments? And what impact will this have on the design of these learning artefacts?
  3. What place does collaboratively constructed knowledge artefacts, such as a wiki or a group blog, have in a CMC or OCL learning environment?


  • Bates, T. (2015). Teaching in a digital age [electronic resource] : guidelines for designing teaching and learning for a digital age / A.W. (Tony) Bates. Vancouver ; BCcampus Open Textbooks. Available at https://opentextbc.ca/teachinginadigitalage/.
  • Berge, Z., & Collins, M. (1995). Computer-mediated communication and the online classroom in distance learning. Computer-Mediated Communication Magazine, 2(4). Available at http://www.december.com/cmc/mag/1995/apr/berge.html
  • Garrison, D. Randy, and J.B. Arbaugh. (2007) “Researching the Community of Inquiry Framework: Review, Issues, and Future Directions.” Internet and Higher Education, vol. 10, pp. 157–172.
  • Harasim, L. (2017). Learning Theory and Online Technologies (2nd ed., Vol. 1, p. 198). https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203846933
  • Jones, S. (1995). CyberSociety : computer-mediated communication and community / [edited by] Steven G. Jones. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage Publications.
  • Parry, M. (2010). Online, bigger classes may be better classes.(Massive Open Online Course). Education Digest, 76(4), 19–22.
  • Romiszowski, A., & Mason, R. (2012). Chapter 14: Computer-Mediated Communication. In Computer mediated communication: issues and approaches in education (S. Kelsey & K. St. Amant, Eds.). Hershey, PA: IGI.
  • Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice : learning, meaning, and identity / Etienne Wenger. Cambridge, [England: Cambridge University Press.

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