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A Beginner's Guide to Computer Conferencing

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Association for Educational Communications and Technology Annual Meeting,


This paper explains the similarities and differences between electronic mail and computer conferencing, and identifies the features one should look for in a modern conferencing system. It also clarifies some related terminology. Advantages of computer conferencing are first outlined, including: time- and space- independence; text-based medium; permanent recording; document transfer; decreased turnaround time; access to online resources; an egalitarian context; improved access; overcoming social isolation and increasing emotional involvement; potential for improved participation; opportunity for increased interaction; enabling cooperative and collaborative group work; and enabling knowledge-building. Disadvantages of computer conferencing include the cost of technology; learning curve; technical difficulties; frustrations with group work; information overload; time spent online; and possible low levels of interaction. The following desirable features in computer conferencing software are then described: user-friendliness; cross-platform compatibility; basic word processing capabilities; client-server design; document transfer; conversation threading; ease of administration; digesting; affordability; high quality documentation; off-line work; multimedia capability; address book; batch processing; forms creation and integration; transparent integration with the Internet and World Wide Web; and chat. (Contains 14 references.) (AEF)


Misanchuk, E.R., Morrison, D. & Peterson, M.E. (1997). A Beginner's Guide to Computer Conferencing. Presented at Association for Educational Communications and Technology Annual Meeting 1997. Retrieved June 25, 2022 from .

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