Types of Group Communication Tools


What is Web Conferencing?

1839.gif (136 bytes)Web conferencing is group discussion that uses text messages (and sometimes images) stored on a computer as the communication medium. Participants type messages for others to read instead of speaking them.

1839.gif (136 bytes)Unlike the discussion that occurs in the face to face classroom, messages that are typed into the computer software are recorded. They can be played back by anyone in the class at any time.

1839.gif (136 bytes)Students in the class have the opportunity to consider and to respond to messages posted by classmates or by the instructor.


What Activities Are Not Considered to be Web Conferencing?

1839.gif (136 bytes)Synchronous communication. In synchronous communication and chat rooms, group members communicate at the same time. All students in the group must be virtually present at the same time to conduct synchronous communication. Most forms of synchronous communication are text based. Group members type their messages.

1839.gif (136 bytes)Voice based conferencing using speakers and microphone. This form of conferencing is synchronous, but doesn't depend on text.

1839.gif (136 bytes)Video conferencing. Video conferencing may also use speakers and microphones. It is also a form of synchronous communication.


How Does the Web Play a Role in Conferencing?

1839.gif (136 bytes)A web browser is used to access the messages and images and to submit new messages.

1839.gif (136 bytes)The messages are stored on a web server.

1839.gif (136 bytes)Sometimes old "pre-web" conferencing software has been adapted to the web.


What Types of Group Communication Software Work on the Web?

1839.gif (136 bytes)Centralized forums

1839.gif (136 bytes)Groupware

1839.gif (136 bytes)Bulletin Board Systems

1839.gif (136 bytes)Usenet

1839.gif (136 bytes)Mailing Lists


What Are the Features of Centralized Forums?

1839.gif (136 bytes)They have a rich history since the idea originated with mainframe computers so has had a long time to develop. Many of the features of the mainframe software packages have been incorporated into more modern web-based software such as those listed below.

1839.gif (136 bytes)Messages are stored and treated as an ongoing conversation.

1839.gif (136 bytes)New messages are placed into the discussion structure as soon as they are received.

1839.gif (136 bytes)Often there are sophisticated features for both management by the instructor and participation by both students and the instructor.


Examples of Centralized Forums Software

1839.gif (136 bytes)Allaire Forums

1839.gif (136 bytes)WebBoard

1839.gif (136 bytes)COW

1839.gif (136 bytes)NetForum

1839.gif (136 bytes)Podium

1839.gif (136 bytes)There are many more.....


What Are the Features of Groupware?

1839.gif (136 bytes)Groupware usually hosts more activities in addition to discussion fora than Centralized forums do.

1839.gif (136 bytes)Groupware also evolved from the PLATO Notes files of the 1960s.

1839.gif (136 bytes)Best example(s) is Lotus Notes (1989), and Lotus Domino (1997) and Lotus Learning Space.

1839.gif (136 bytes)Has group scheduling, document sharing, integrated applications, toolboxes, templates, etc.

1839.gif (136 bytes)They are usually powerful and complex.

1839.gif (136 bytes)Since they are meant for office use they often focus on efficient workflow and not on discussion.


What Are the Features of Bulletin Boards?

1839.gif (136 bytes)They have a microcomputer origin from the late 1970s.

1839.gif (136 bytes)They have been adapted for web use.

1839.gif (136 bytes)They were originally designed to swap files and to post notices.

1839.gif (136 bytes)Each message is treated independently. It is not linked to others of the same topic.

1839.gif (136 bytes)They are usually not well adapted to discussion.

1839.gif (136 bytes)It may be easy to acquire the software free and easy to set up and maintain it.

1839.gif (136 bytes)Examples are Spinnaker and WebLine. Neither is free.


What Are the Features of UseNet?

1839.gif (136 bytes)Handles individual messages sorted by broad subject areas.

1839.gif (136 bytes)Uses standardized protocols.

1839.gif (136 bytes)Messages can be replicated around the world. They are not useful for private discussions.

1839.gif (136 bytes)Their functions have been integrated into web browsers.

1839.gif (136 bytes)There are few stand alone products.

1839.gif (136 bytes)They are free, straightforward and standard.


What Are the Features of Mailing Lists?

1839.gif (136 bytes)They are completely passive. The discussion arrives through email. Web browsers aren't used.

1839.gif (136 bytes)The messages are not threaded, that is, they are not sorted by topic. Instead, they usually arrive in the order they were written.

1839.gif (136 bytes)They can't easily handle multiple discussions, since messages about different topics arrive together.