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From the Publisher"Provides readers with a comprehensive understanding of the humancommunication issues that continue to evolve and impact highereducation at an ever-increasing rate." (AAHE Bulletin, July2003)
Communication is fundamental to any teaching endeavor. Ideally,collaboration joins effective communication to create effectivelearning environments. This is true whether the learning space isbrick and mortar or virtual. Patricia Comeaux, et.al., suggest that in order to achieve the benefits thattechnology can offer for teaching and learning, we need tounderstand the communication issues that technology surfaces inhuman interaction. This compilation of experiences with technologyin teaching and learning has, as a focus, communication andcollaboration. Collaboration is one area of interaction wherecommunication and technology issues intersect the preparation toteach, the act of teaching and the evaluation of teaching andlearning effectiveness. It is in these areas that the authorsdescribe their experiences in the context of communicationtheories.
The authors share challenges, benefits and lessons learned fromdeveloping programs, creating and teaching courses, and teaching asvisiting faculty. The purpose is to provide faculty, graduatestudents, administrators, and scholars in higher education withreal experiences across disciplines. One of the strengths of thebook is the wide span of experience and disciplines that have cometogether to share their stories and analysis of thoseexperiences.
Comeaux begins the text with a brief review of the literaturerelevant to communication, education, instructional technology, anddistance education related to communication and collaboration viainteractive technology. The contributing authors responded to thefollowing question in each chapter: "how have interactivetechnologies affected teaching and learning in institutions ofhigher education?" Dividing the chapters into three sections,authors first address program development. Case studies offerinsights gained from collaborating within departments and with keystakeholders in the community. Issues such as managing detractors,facilitating effective project management, and creating dialoguesaround teaching and learning are explored.
The second section focuses on collaboration in course design andteaching as visiting faculty in online courses. Benefits ofcollaboration as visiting faculty are described and demonstrate thevalue of interactive technologies in enhancing the learningenvironment through opportunities like providing content andexperiences that the primary course faculty do not have access to.Collaboration in preparing for course content and teachingstrategies is seen as paying big dividends even though navigationand negotiation via unfamiliar or, sometimes, unavailabletechnology was problematic.
Lastly, the third section deals with the development of learningcommunities. In a sense, the last section brings together theessence of communication and collaboration as faculty worked tocreate cohesive learning communities using interactivetechnologies. Practical issues like sizes of groups, availabilityof resources, and time management are explored. Interestingly,these are the same fundamental issues in face-to-face environments.Effective teamwork aimed at a common objective seemed to createsimilar challenges for this set of faculty. The lessons learned inthis section provide a rich source of areas to focus on proactivelyby anyone attempting to create online learning communities.
In the final chapter, Comeaux argues that the authors supported andextended the themes identified in the Introduction; dialogues aboutteaching and learning with interactive technologies are increasingand being supported by key stakeholders in the teaching-learningcommunity; teaching is "a complex communicative process";collaborative learning occurs in both traditional and onlineclassrooms; and collaborative learning is a viable approach ininteractive environments. She notes that as we gain experiences inonline or virtual environments our language will better reflect thekey foci for understanding teaching and learning and that it will,in all likelihood, not be on the particular space where instructionoccurs. Rather, the focus will be, as this book has demonstrated,on communication and collaboration between all of the players inthe teaching-learning environment.
This book adds to our understanding of teaching via interactivetechnologies by providing faculty experiences that they haveanalyzed for risks and benefits in developing, providing andevaluating teaching via interactive technologies. For facultydevelopers, the cases can provide starting points for faculty orgroups of faculty and administrators interested in usinginteractive technologies. For those interested in the use ofinteractive technologies framed within the context of communicationand collaboration, the cases and faculty experiences provide ameans of surfacing, exploring, validating their assumptions andexperiences in online environments.
I found the book to be an interesting read. Practically speaking,the case studies are relatively short and organized in a way thatit was easy to follow the case description and subsequent analysis.The breadth of faculty experience and expertise provided a roundedview of some of the challenges that faculty face at different timesin their own growth and development as teachers.
I would recommend the book to faculty, administrators and facultydevelopers as a useful starting place for exploring how they usethe notions of communication and collaboration in their classrooms.(UNC's Effective Teaching web site, September 2002)