McComb, M. (1994). Benefits of computer-mediated communication in college courses. Communication Education, 43, 159-170.



This article looked at how CMC is used to enhance communication “among teachers and students” in three different classroom settings (159/350).  CMC used by teachers in a Senior Capstone course, an Introduction to Computers for Humanities course and an Introduction to Film course were examined.


Points of Discussion

1)    Pedagogical Aims

  1. Learning does not occur to its full potential in traditional settings.  Pedagogy that allows the students to “be active creators of, rather than passive reactors” of, can only be achieved through experience.  (159/350).
  2. Learning takes place in “conversations among teachers and students” and “students learn by formulating ideas, not be receiving information from an omniscient teacher who pours facts into the students empty vaults” (160/351).
  3. CMC gives learning the ability to extend “the boundaries of the classroom” (160/351).

2)    Capabilities of CMC Systems

  1. CMC in groups discussion skills and senior capstone course
    1. In the discussion skills class the students learn “communication skills for leadership, skills for conflict resolution, and efficient methods of interaction in problem-solving groups” (161/352). 
    2. CMC allowed students to conveniently communicate with their groups and the their teacher outside of the face-to-face discussion (161/352).
    3. Students are given accounts, the teacher instructs them how to use their accounts, and then the teacher provides students with “read-only share disk containing a syllabus, schedules, grading criteria, bibliographies, and any other material that would normally be provided as a handout” (161/352).
  2. CMC in introduction to computers for humanities

1.  In the computers for humanities class, “CMC is apart of the course content” as well used in the execution of the class (161/352).

  1. CMC in introduction to film
    1. CMC is used to “extend discussion outside class time” because the class does not have enough time to discuss the films watched in class (162/353).

3)    Interaction Using CMC

a. While CMC provides the practical needs in each classroom, it also provides “a learning environment which extends beyond class time and space, in which students and teachers have more equal balance of power” (163/354).

4)    CMC Extends Learning Beyond The Classroom

  1. Increased availability

1. Students have access to teachers beyond the classroom but the teachers “can work at their own convenience because of CMC’s asynchronicity” (163/354).

  1. Demonstrates Caring

1. Caring is one of the things that “marks the teacher-student relationship”.   Showing the students caring consists of teachers giving the students time and attention.  CMC gives teachers the opportunity to give their time and attention the students (164/355)

  1. Includes Outside Experts

1.  CMC makes it easier for more than one teacher to evaluate student’s work.  Students can exercise “meeting the criteria of more than one person” (164/355).

5)    CMC Balances Power

  1. Increases students responsibility and requires initiative
    1. CMC “requires that students take initiative in communication” whereas in the face-to-face classes the teachers do most of the work (165/356).
    2. Students must be “proactive” in the class because they have to get information/handouts off the internet on their own time (166/357).
  2. Responsibilities in Conferencing

1. Students in the film class refer to “conference talk in class, and vice versa” (166/357).

6)    CMC is Efficient

  1. Access to resources

1. Students have access to course materials online at all times (167/358).

  1. Facilitates quick assignment turn around

1. Turn-around time is lessened because students have the ability to submit assignments online and teachers can respond to quickly by email (168/359).

  1. Keeps course records
    1. Students have the ability to look back at discussions to refresh their memory.  (168/359)
    2. The internet allows the teacher to look back at their discussions and see how the students have improved over time (168/359).
  2. Focused participation

1.  CMC allows teachers to answer specific problems and concerns of groups of students in an efficient manner without wasting class time (169/360).

7)   Discussion Questions

  1. The authors claim learning not does occur to its full potential in traditional learning environment and students are looked at as “passive reactors” (159/350).  Do you agree that all students are seen as passive reactors in traditional classrooms?  What about the students that participate in class discussions?  Are they considered passive?
  2. CMC’s convenience was strongly emphasized throughout this article.  I agree that online learning is convenient because you can access the class from the comfort of your own home.  Do you agree that it is convenient? Or does that seem to be an inconvenience because now you have to worry about school when you are at home relaxing?
  3. This article says CMC “requires that students take initiative in communication” (165/356).  Do you think that some students have a harder time taking initiative than others?  Do you think students need to be taught how to take initiative in an online course because they are so accustomed to teachers taking initiative in face-to-face courses?
  4. Do you think that CMC is necessary to use in classes where CMC is not apart of the course content?  It is necessary for all disciplines to incorporate CMC into their lesson plans?  Should student use of CMC be optional in classes where CMC is not apart of the course content?
  5. This article claims CMC is efficient because it allows: 1) easy access to resources, 2) facilitates quick assignment turn around 3) keeps course records and 4) allows focused participation. Do you think that face-to-face classrooms can offer most if not all the same things?  What are some efficiencies that face-to-face classrooms offer that CMC cannot provide?  Which efficiencies do you prefer?