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Everyone Likes Computer Mediated Communication- Right? Article Critique

By Edited Sep 19, 2016 0 0

An and Fricks 2006 study

 An and Frick’s (2006) article studied the student satisfaction and perceptions of asynchronous computer-mediated communication (CMC), like email and threaded discussions, compared to face-to-face discussions. One hundred and five residential graduate and undergraduate students were asked open-ended questions about “their preferences, experiences, opinions, needs and problems” concerning the two types of interaction (An & Frick, 2006, p. 485).  The study concluded that most students “preferred face-to-face discussion over CMC for most tasks” but CMC was favored for the simple tasks (An & Frick, 2006, p. 485). The student’s expressed they would favor CMC more if their teachers were more enthusiastic and involved in CMC (An & Frick, 2006).  The study also revealed that students are more concerned with speed and convenience over “whether the discussion is face-to-face or CMC” (An & Frick, 2006, p. 485).  

 Typical Style, Well Written, Clear Organization, Overall Easy Read

This article was written very clear and overall an easy read.  The article was organized in the typical fashion most journal articles are, which worked well for this study.  The article starts with an abstract that effectively summarized the article.  The abstract overviews the study effectively by first explaining the study is on student’s perceptions of CMC.  Then An and Frick (2006) continue to tell other findings related to this study that they found.  Finally the abstract is concluded with their findings that student’s prefer face-to-face discussion to CMC.  The abstract was simple, to the point and effective.

After the abstract there is an overview.  The overview states the same thing that was in the abstract regarding what the study is about and then gives a lot of background information on CMC.  An and Frick (2006) do a through job of explaining the problems associated with CMC and the reasoning for their study.  They cited over ten scholarly articles they have found on their topic while explaining the background and problems related with CMC.  This shows they had a strong knowledge about the subject before they started their own study.  The overview ended with their research questions. 

Next there was a section on their research method.  Here there were two tables included to make the information easier to understand.  Both tables were logical, clear and easy to read.  First there is a chart on the demographics of their study that was neatly organized into categories of age, years in school, and gender.  The second chart consisted of the questions asked in the study to the students.  This chart was broken down into two sections.  An and Frick (2006) broke the charts down in an efficient way.   The first section had questions where the students would answer if they disagreed or agreed and to what level.  The second section had statements and the students had to answer if they would apply that statement to face-to-face discussions or CMC experiences.  The breakdown of the charts was necessary to clarify the questions to the reading audience.

Finally this article concluded with a discussion and conclusion section. The most important finding in their study is summarized in the conclusion.  An and Frick (2006) conclude that students “hold different values for different tasks” (An & Frick, 2006, p. 497).  This finding should have been emphasized more throughout their article because it seemed to be the finding that was most objective.  There were no assumptions made before An and Frick (2006) found this information.  It was apparent this finding from their research stood out as being the strongest.  The conclusion section also had a limitations section, and implications for future research as all scholarly articles should have. 

Content Analysis

Rationale: Clear in some areas

This study was conducted because there were not many studies on “residential student perceptions of CMC” (An & Frick, 2006, p. 485).   Although I agree it is important to research the perceptions of CMC to help making learning with CMC better, I do not see why it would be important to study specifically residential students.  This study concludes the responses of non-residential students from past research and residential students in the current research were the same.  This showed the perceptions of CMC are the same regardless if students live on or off campus.  I do not understand why An and Frick (2006) felt the need to study that specific group of people.  The rationale to conduct this study for purposes of helping improve CMC was appropriate, but conducting this study for the purpose of studying residential students seemed unnecessary. 

An and Frick (2006) specifically researched students perceptions and satisfaction of CMC because past studies proved students preferred face-to-face interaction to CMC.  An and Frick (2006) conducted a study to see if they had the similar results.  An and Frick’s (2006) reasoning to conduct this study for purposes of providing evidence that most students prefer face-to-face interactions over CMC were appropriate.  The study’s conclusion supported the conclusions made by past researchers. 

The Research Questions:  Something’s missing

The first research question focused on the comfort level of the students in the CMC environment compared to the face-to-face environments: “When compared to face-to-face discussion, do residential students feel comfortable in CMC? What are the factors that might affect perceived comfort with CMC in face-to-face courses?” (An & Frick, 2006, p. 487).  This question seemed appropriate to investigate considering this study was created to figure out which environment brought the most satisfaction to the students.  Comfort often plays an important part in determining satisfaction of situations.  The more comfortable a person is in a situation the more satisfaction they will get from that experience.  This research question was clear and specific enough to determine the comfort level of the students.  It was an effective research question to guide the study.

The second research question focused on different tasks and which environment the students prefer to complete them in: “When working on different types of tasks (ambiguous, unequivocal, complex, simple, decision-making, and idea generating tasks), do students prefer face-to-face discussion or CMC? Why?” (An & Frick, 2006, p. 488).  This question seemed appropriate to study because it would determine which situation students had the most positive experiences with.  The more positive experiences a person has in a situation will make that person like it more.  The students would have to decide which situation they would rather work in to complete each task based on their past experiences.  The situation that was chosen the most would be the one they preferred.  This question was clear and specific because it listed the types of tasks they wanted the students to respond to. 

 The third and forth research questions were created because An & Frick (2006) hypothesized face-to-face discussion would be preferred for “equivocal tasks, complex or difficult tasks, and convergent or decision-making tasks”, and CMC would be preferred “for unequivocal tasks, simple tasks, and divergent or idea generating tasks” (An & Frick, 2006, p. 488).  The questions focused on what the students liked and disliked about CMC as well as what they felt was needed to make CMC better: “3. What CMC factors do residential students perceive as satisfactory or as frustrating? 4. What do residential students perceive as being needed for learning best from computer-mediated discussion?” (An & Frick, 2006, p. 488).  These questions were very specific because they focus on exactly what students like and dislike about CMC and what the students needed to make CMC complete.  The problem with these research questions is they are biased.  The questions have the assumption the students will prefer face-to-face.  Research questions should be added that ask the same thing for face-to-face interaction to eliminate the bias.   The last questions would hold more validity if they asked the students the same things for face-to-face situations because a comparison between the two situations could be made.   The comparison could be a valuable factor in determining which situation the students preferred.  For example if the students gave more positive answers for one situation it could add to the evidence used to prove which situation was preferred. 

Valid Conclusions? Yes

A lot of background information was given in the overview of the article.  An and Frick (2006) clearly researched their topic immensely before beginning their research study.  It was clear that An and Frick (2006) had a strong background before beginning their study.  I believe this aided them in making valid conclusions from their research.  The study An and Frick (2006) did provided the same results as the previous studies they cited in their background information.  They concluded from their results the same conclusions the other scholarly articles concluded since the results all matched up to one another.  This shows the arguments leading up to the conclusions made by An and Frick (2006) were valid because there were past studies that confirmed their findings.   Overall the conclusions made by An and Frick (2006) were valid because they had a high knowledge of the subject matter beforehand and their conclusions were supported by past studies.

References

An, Y., & Frick, T. (2006). Student perceptions of asynchronous computer-mediated communication in face-to-face courses [Electronic version]. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 11(2), 485-499. from EBSCOhost. 

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