Interactivity online

28 Mar 2020 9:21 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

CPDmeBlog3

  • Challenging (un)interactivity using WhatsApp: a preliminary report on engagement (Part 1)

    In January this year I presented my first webinar of 2020 which was an exploration of the barriers and enablers to effective communication in webinars, something I have been examining for the last few I have offered, if only as a side issue.

    Part of my concern is the unidirectional nature of the webinar, which evidence indicates as being a characteristic of online learning, the subject of this particular edition. Definitions include:

    Seminar: a small group of students, as in a university, engaged in advanced study and original research under a member of the faculty and meeting regularly to exchange information and hold discussions.

    Webinar: a seminar or other presentation that takes place on the Internet, allowing participants in different locations to see and hear the presenter, ask questions, and sometimes answer polls.

    The reality is, in my view, that the webinar has a strong tendency towards one-way communication, from the presenter to the audience, and the consequence of this is that it is much more like an online lecture, with few, in any, opportunities to ask questions, or more importantly, engage in discussions about the complexities of the issues under exploration.

    My webinar aimed to undermine this somewhat by actively encouraging online contributions from participants by:

  • ·      asking a series of questions to which they were invited to respond
  • ·      giving them time to compose and send their thoughts and ideas to the WhatsApp forum that had been set up to allow them to engage with the issues
  • Altogether, 136 people signed up for the webinar and 40 logged in on the day. Of these. 56 people registered as participants in the WhatsApp group. Twenty-four people (including the two facilitators) made at least one contribution, as illustrated in the following table:

    Mike (facilitator)

    9

    Assad

    2

    Barry

    1

    Colin

    1

    Domini (facilitator)

    3

    David

    3

    Eden

    14

    Fatim

    13

    Isobel

    1

    John

    7

    Katrina

    4

    Louise

    1

    Lola

    2

    Michaela

    5

    Norma

    3

    Olive

    2

    Peter

    2

    Queenie

    4

    Roger

    4

    Stephen

    2

    Unwin

    1

    Vidal

    1

    Adnam

    1

    Belinda

    2

    (all names anonymised)

    Table 2: Contributions to WhatsApp forum

    Much of the substance of the webinar was based on an analysis of online interaction I had written some years ago[1], which identified some of the obstacles that can get in the way of effective online interaction. These included:

  • ·      antinomy
  • ·      mardi gras
  • ·      atomisation
  • ·      decentralisation
  • ·      disembodiment
  • ·      intensification
  • ·      lurking
  • ·      representation of self
  • If you are interested in exploring these in more depth, have a look at the webinar at https://www.cpdme.com/webinar/8085007

    In order to explore the extent to which these were features of contemporary online communication, using a more modern platform than the one in the paper, I posed a series of issues to explore:

  • ·      What are the norms for our interactions online via WhatsApp or Twitter?
  • ·      Share examples, if any, of challenging behaviour in online communities
  • ·      Do you feel “close” to people in this online environment? What, if any, is the shared experience? How can it be maximised?
  • ·      What steps, if any can be taken to ensure a greater sense of community?
  • ·      How close is your online presence to your sense of “you”? Can you, and do you, make any conscious decisions to be “another” person?
  • ·      How can I find out what is going on in the minds of the lurkers?

Each prompt was followed by a one minute period of silence to allow participants to write a response and post to the WhatsApp group.

A screenshot of a cell phone Description automatically generated

The two highest periods of activity were in response to Opening (Please introduce yourselves”) and Closingand that analysis led into further consideration of what was going on in the interim – in other words, what was the nature of the online interaction from opening remarks to the closing phase of the webinar.

An aside: Linguistic analysis of online interaction

As part of another responsibility for evaluating an intervention in non-technical skills, I have explored the possibility of attempting to explain the nature of behaviour by virtue of an analysis of spoken language, using functional criteria to judge the purpose that an utterance is attempting to do. This is based on the work of the linguist M.A.H. Halliday who described the functions as follows:

Instrumental

To fulfil a need

Regulatory

To influence the behaviour of others – persuading, commanding, requesting

Interactional

To develop social relationships – phatic communication

Personal

To express identity and indicate preferences

Representational

To exchange information

Heuristic

To ask questions or gain insight through “thinking aloud”

Imaginative

To speculate or illustrate through “story”

Table 3: Functions of language (after Halliday, 1972)

All of these were represented in the WhatsApp component of the webinar, incidences, as follows:

Instrumental

9

Regulatory

2

Interactional

36

Personal

39

Representational

10

Heuristic

6

Imaginative

1

Table 4: Incidence of language functions in WhatsApp group interaction

My next blog will explore these results in more detail, and will compare the nature of the experience to the model that was reported in the webinar itself.


[1] Fragmented by technologies: a community in cyberspace http://www.helsinki.fi/science/optek/1997/n1/davis.txt [accessed 27th January 2020]

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