Lit Review: This is a post in a series focusing on the research studies on videoconferencing.
Kubasko, D., Jones, M. G., Tretter, T., & Andre, T. (2007). Is it Live or is it Memorex? Students’ Synchronous and Asynchronous Communication with Scientists. International Journal of Science Education, 30(4), 495 – 514.
Authors: Kubasko, Dennis; Jones, M. Gail; Tretter, Thomas; Andre, Thomas
Title of article: Is it Live or is it Memorex? Students’ Synchronous and Asynchronous Communication with Scientists
Publication year: 2007
Database source: InformaWorld
Name of journal: International Journal of Science Education
My Codes: VCContentProviders
Main Point: The study compared students’ interaction with scientists via email and via real-time conferencing. The interactions were accompanied by real-time access to live data to remotely control an atomic force microscope (for the realtime group) and recorded experiments with the microscope (for the via email group). Both groups gained in their knowledge of viruses. Students in the asynchronous group asked more inquiry and interpretation questions than the synchronous group. All of the students were one-on-one with the scientist and NetMeeting was the synchronous method.
Theoretical Framework/References: Theoretical frameworks referenced include inquiry-based learning and hands-on science learning; as well as Vygotsky’s social constructivism. Several references are used to compare synchronous and asynchronous online learning.
Methods: The students participated in the instruction – learning about nanotechnology, then working through stations to conduct experiments and interview the scientists (twice), and finally writing a newspaper article about what they learned.
Data was collected from the students interactions. The live interactions were video taped and transcribed. The asynchronous email communications were captured for analysis. The students’ interactions with the experiment (live or replayed) were also captured for analysis.
Knowledge assessments were used before and after the activity and the newspaper articles were analyzed for content.
Sample: Eighty five biology students from four high school science classes in one school. The classes were randomly assigned to synchronous and asynchronous groups.
- Both groups asked the same number of questions.
- The content of the asynchronous questions were most frequently about inquiry/interpretation.
- The majority of the synchronous questions were informal and about the scientist, personally.
- In both groups there was a significant shift from two-dimensional to three-dimensional understandings of the viruses.
- Both groups understood the actual shape of the viruses better.
- The asynchronous students wrote much longer articles for the newspaper than the synchronous group.
- The asynchronous group made significantly more statements about what they learned or knew in their articles.
The researchers’ found these results encouraging, since providing this access to students is easier and cheaper using the replayed experiments and email communication vs. live experiments and live interaction with the scientists.
The researchers called the synchronous group students’ fascination with the live interaction the “actor phenomenon”. The scientist in some cases was more interesting to the students than the experiment. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Depends on your learning goals!
The researchers believe “future research needed to document how students can benefit most from communicating with scientists. What aspects of communication with scientists impact knowledge of science versus other variables such as attitudes, knowledge of science processes, knowledge of science careers, or images of scientists?” p. 17-18. Cross reference with McCombs’ evaluation and Shaklee’s study.
It’s really interesting how the email was more formal and thought out. There’s certainly something to be said for thinking about the questions ahead of time. See McCombs’ study. In this study, it doesn’t appear that the live interaction students had a chance to think carefully about their questions. I wonder how this would compare, say, to the live interaction around a taped program like COSI Columbus’ In Depth Autopsy program. This article was especially interesting since my rant about asynchronous vendors knocking synchronous technologies. Asynchronous can be more thoughtful, yet synchronous has an energy and excitement to it. Which is better? What about the visuals? In this study, the visuals were the same – both groups could see the experiments. Certainly something to keep thinking about!