Wednesday, April 13, 2005

4. Electronic chat with potential

Malin Hydén & Carl Eneroth

Prejudice tells us that communication via an electronic chat is needlessly complicated, confusing and not suited for learning. In reality, however, the chat is an important tool for collaborative learning at a distance. This is a conclusion a major Swedish insurance company drew from educating web-coaches on their educational platform.

Can a web-based education portal strengthen the course participant’s personal relations? This question was presented to a number of future web-coaches at a major Swedish insurance company t42 worked with in the autumn of 2004. Most of them answered no. The general perception was that communication on the Internet brings about superficial relations or no relations at all. The question is important, as the contact between the course tutor and the participants plays an important part in motivating them for further learning, especially when it comes to distance education.

After a t42-led education at a distance, the web-coaches were asked the same question again. Now, more than 60% of them had radically changed their mind. The course participants had basically reassessed the tools for communication presented on their web-based educational platform, in particular the chat. From being considered as a complicated and unnecessary way of communication, the written chat was viewed as an important tool for personal networking. Several even saw the chat as the most important tool on their educational platform, and suggested other ways of using the chat:

- “I could be a resource person to invite to a chat and share experiences in my field of knowledge”.
- “We (course participants) could become more aware of each other and solve tasks together”.
- “It (the chat) can replace some meetings with our sales staff and thereby save travel time”.

A chat can be used for formal learning, when the web-coach with different methods guides the conversation towards a specific goal, but also for informal learning where the participants are given the opportunity to more freely discuss, find solutions and in other ways share experiences. The written chat, thereby, becomes more personal than many are inclined to believe.

t42 Distance Education
TeaForTwo (t42) is a consultancy focused on distance education and collaborative learning on the Internet. T42 offers to companies to educate their educators. These web-coaches learn to support the group dynamics in a distance education course and formulate constructive assignments. Malin Hyden is a t42 partner with long experience of corporate e-learning.

Read more: Eneroth, C. & Hydén, M.
- Chatt - en outnyttjad potential i distansutbildning (April, 2005), Frukostklubben

- Innehåller är inte allt (October, 2004), Frukostklubben

No comments: