"Why Real Time?"

This e-mail message, copied from the acw-l archives, was posted by C.J. Jeney on January 7, 1998.

Tim, this is a quick and rough list of benefits of real-time computer

There are (as I'm sure you know) lots of challenges and problems involved
with using synchronous CMC, as well. But you wanted the positive stuff :)

Benefits of synchronous computer-mediated communication:

1) students who are normally silent or shy during discussion sometimes say
they feel more confident to express their ideas and opinions in writing
during chat sessions, than they feel speaking face to face with groups of

2) students can finish a comment/post without being interrupted, a benefit
also present in asynchronous forums. However, there are benefits to
empowering students by giving them the certainty that their comments in a
real-time discussion cannot be cut off, interrupted, or silenced in
manipulative or authoritarian ways.

3) No comment is lost. All posts are present in their entirety, so that
even when the text scrolls quickly, all comments are complete and
accessible to all readers.

4) The cognitive exercise is at once both exhilerating and exhausting:
students must form their thoughts in a dialogic context, but then express
them in written form, thus providing them with instantaneaous impetus to be
understood in a written format, without relying on non-verbal crutches.

5) On a practical level, many computer classrooms are designed poorly,
separating the instructor from the students with tons (literally!) of
hardware placed in daunting rows, where the teacher can barely see
students, much less be *heard* by them. Synchronous CMC helps bridge the
physical problems of holding discussions and lectures in these classrooms.

6) Synchronous CMC limits the power of one user to "hold forth" at length.
(this is a GOOD thing--it highlights the difference between "lecturing" and

7) Deaf students get to "hear" and participate fully in the entire
discussion experience.

8) One-on-one or small-group forum synchronous CMC during peer review of
compositions and collaborative projects aids students in formulating and
coherently expressing their ideas, and logging features on many programs
allow students to retain a printed record of all comments and suggestions
made during the session.

9) On another practical note, discussions can be logged and saved/printed,
for future reference. This allows the instructor to accurately review and
assess student participation in r/t discussion.

10) Real-time CMC demonstrates the importance of audience and the need to
develop the ability to form clear, coherent sentences in *all* verbal
interactions. The challenge of "translating" conversational English into a
written form creates a constant flow of problem-solving situations that
student writers can work on both as collaborators, and as individual writers.

I don't have terrific documentation on r/t...the Daedalus people are big on
their r/t feature for use in their peer review/collaboration software
(http://www.utexas.edu/cc/docs/cca1 4/daedalus.html). Of these articles,
Jerome Bump's is the most enthusiastic.

Barclay, D. (1995) Ire, envy, irony, and ENFI: Electronic Conferences as
Unreliable Narrative. Computers and Composition. 12, 23-44.

Bump, J.(1990) Radical Changes in Class Discussion Using Networked
Computers. Computers and the Humanities 24, 49-65

Daisley, M. (1994). The Game of Literacy: The Meaning of Play in Computer-
Mediated Communication. Computers and Composition . 11, 107-119.

Hellerstein, L. (1985). The social use of electronic communication at a
major university. Computers and the Social Sciences. 1, 191-197.

Reid, E. (1991) Electropolis: Communications and Community on Internet
Relay Chat
http://sunsite .sut.ac.jp/pub/academic/communications/papers/irc/electropolis