, Volume 4, Issue 2-3, pp 127-152

Interaction process in computer-mediated and face-to-face groups

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Abstract

This paper presents a comparative description of interactions in computer-mediated (CMC) and face-to-face (FTF) groups. For each of six weeks 16 CMC and 14 FTF groups of students collaborated on group essay assignments. We coded all verbal messages during these essay tasks. We explored four questions: 1.) Do CMC and FTF groups differ in the frequency of interaction acts, overall and within interaction categories?; 2.) If so, which interaction categories are used more by CMC and which by FTF groups?; 3.) Do these patterns of interaction activity vary over time?; 4.) Are there systematic differences in interaction patterns over time between media? Results showed that there were substantial differences between CMC and FTF groups in both the amount and type of interaction for each of four main categories of interaction. There were substantial over-time effects, collapsed across media, for several of the categories of behavior, but there were no significant differences in the way CMC and FTF groups changed over time. Although there was extensive variation among groups within a given medium, we did find some consistent patterns of behavior for groups within each medium, some of them distinctive for the medium. Although we offer evidence for differences in interaction processes of FTF and CMC groups, we note that the conclusions one makes depends upon one's perspective about the purpose of groups.