|Title||Synchronous Communication in Projects|
Mr Adam Stepinski/Teacher of English and History at Copernicus Upper-Secondary School
Synchronous communication means real time communication between students (and teachers), most commonly in the form of text chat, Skype sessions or online meetings (for example on Blackboard Collaborate or WebEx).
Several studies suggest that social presence is higher in synchronous discussions than in asynchronous ones. Social presence has been linked to several desirable aspects of student perception and learning. That can lead to students’ perception of increased learning, project satisfaction and emotional satisfaction. Other benefits of the high level of social presence include: fostering critical thinking, making interaction intrinsically rewarding, the construction and negotiation of knowledge and the establishment of the community of learners. Schwier and Balbar (2002) claim that using synchronous tools contributes to the “continuity and convenience” of the class, helps sustain regular contact and creates a sense of urgency and immediacy. Students feel a stronger sense of community, they feel more motivated and committed because a quick response is expected. Thanks to that discussions are often more passionate.
Many researchers suggest that synchronous communication works well for content that inspires natural debate or passion, but asynchronous communication can be preferred for content that is dry or requires reflection. Synchronous communication may not provide the time or concentration required to engage deep ideas.
Synchronous tools can also be used as a complementary learning/teaching component to:
– discuss less complex, more immediate issues
– plan tasks
– conduct brainstorming sessions
Chats, Skype sessions and online conferences are the three most frequently used kinds of synchronous communication in project work. If you would like to learn more about different aspects of collaborating synchronously with these tools, have a look at the materials below:
– “Online chat: Ideas for Classroom Use” – an article on Education World
– “Online Chat” – an article on Wikipedia (history, chatiquette, cultural impact, social criticism, software and protocols)
– “Use of Chats and Videoconferencing in Classroom” – a SlideShare presentation
– “Skype Lessons” – a collection of lessons
– “Skype in the Classroom Connects Classes in California, South Korea and Canada” – a video on YouTube
– “What is Blackboard Collaborate?” – a video on YouTube
– “What is WebEx?” – a video on YouTube
Below you will find a collection of opinions comparing synchronous and asynchronous methods of communication:
– Synchronous messages are significantly shorter than asynchronous notes
– Synchronous messages in chats are easier to read and in general they are easier to understand than asynchronous notes.
– Synchronous messages contain more social (for example emotional) words than asynchronous notes.
– Asynchronous notes contain more words indicating cognitive processing than synchronous messages.
– Synchronous communication seems to set up a context within which interaction is likely to increase.
– Synchronous communication may serve to fill a social gap that may exist under asynchronous communication only.
– Synchronous communication is extremely popular with today’s students and they should be provided with this kind of communication while working on a project.
– Synchronous communication increases the sense of community and encourages more interactivity (immediate feedback
– encouraging quick feedback on ideas, and support consensus and decision making).
– Synchronous communication focuses on listening and speaking, and asynchronous communication on reading and writing.
– Synchronous communication is more convenient (we can express our ideas when we have some free time) and flexible.
– Specific function of each mode is different and complementary.
Some tips to consider while working on a project:
1. Decide what your objectives are for using communication
2. Inform students of your expectations for how communication tools will be used as part of the project (it will be even better if you together discuss that)
3. Facilitate and monitor both synchronous and asynchronous dialogue to keep it on topic (but sometimes we can let it flow freely, especially while building the sense of community)
4. Be aware of those who do not participate
5. Be organised
6. Be flexible
7. Ensure time for learning how to use communication tools
8. Ensure time for interaction
9. Use audio-visuals when appropriate
10. Summarise the major points at the end of each session
11. Prepare a contingency plan
12. Preserve the flexibility and convenience of asynchronous communication while enhancing efficiency and quality of feedback and interaction through synchronous communication.
Schweier, R. A., Balbar, S. (2002). The interplay of content and community in synchronous and asynchronous communication: Virtual communication in a graduate seminar. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, 28.