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Nov 04 2014 - 07:00 PM
Online Group Work Deathmatch

What is the best communication strategy for educational teamwork? Even in the most traditional courses, group work is often a blended affair; students coordinate in course-controlled online spaces, but also may communicate via personal email, instant message, or mobile. A recent study tasked college students in South Korea to use either mobile instant messaging, computer-based instant messaging, or an online discussion forum to generate solutions to a complex case study.

The study revealed that the instant messaging groups discussed course content about half the time and spent the other half discussing logistics and engaging socially. The discussion forum group covered course topics 73% of the time, but because the mobile instant messaging group sent far more messages than any other group, their total on task content came out on top.

Students also preferred working via mobile instant messaging and said that it integrated seamlessly into their lives. Students appreciated that they could easily keep up with the conversation and participate on the go. Part of this might have to do with South Korea’s high mobile adoption rate and wall-to-wall wifi and mobile networks. (The OECD reports 104.2 mobile subscriptions for every 100 people in South Korea.) The instant messaging group used KakaoTalk, a popular instant messaging app that students were likely already using to chat with friends.

Countries with a more pronounced digital divide or a more diversified mobile communication landscape might not see the overwhelming success of a mobile instant messaging strategy in the classroom, though this research seems to indicate a strong potential for greater mobile integration.

Hyewon, K., MiYoung, L., & Minjeong, K. (2014). Effects of Mobile Instant Messaging on Collaborative Learning Processes and Outcomes: The Case of South Korea. Journal Of Educational Technology & Society, 17(2), 31-42.

Image: IMG_1505 by AFS-USA Intercultural Program via Flickr