The Importance of Group Development (continued)
Because students are able to submit their ideas without fear of immediate interruption and overrule they experience an advantage over their face-to-face peers in learning about their audience and being exposed to multiple ideas. Online communication also dims the importance of social, racial, or cultural status to a degree. Rather than judging their group members by appearance, students must learn about one another through writing (Carabajal, LaPointe, and Gunawardena 222).
At the university where I teach freshmen composition, I am lucky enough to have a smaller class size of about 20 students. I have found that in an online environment, 4 or 5 students are too few for a good online discussion, but over 20 students are too many. When the whole class of 20 students is involved in an online discussion, group unity forms online in the way students agree, disagree, and negotiate with one another. They take this back to the classroom where group work and class discussions continue.
Their experience communicating with group members online allows them to read and reread communication as necessary in order to understand and respond to one another. Hewett also noted that students have the opportunity to save posts that their peers make to use them as a prompt for further responses and review (284). As they put this kind of contemplation into their writing, students begin to internalize considerations about audience and purpose when they write because they have become part of a group that forms their audience.