Instructional Science

, Volume 40, Issue 3, pp 493–513 | Cite as

An instructional paradigm for the teaching of computer-mediated communication

  • Craig D. Howard


This article outlines an instructional paradigm that guides the design of interventions that build skills in computer-mediated communication (CMC). It is applicable to learning at multiple levels of communicative proficiency and aims to heighten awareness, the understanding of the impact of media configurations, the role of cultures and social contexts in mediated communication, and forward research in the service of instructional designs for CMC. This paradigm broadens the scope of Hymes’ (Sociolinguistics, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1972) theory of communicative competence, which is often applied to foreign language learning contexts, to include online interaction. The paradigm addresses the nuances of mediated communication through recognition of the situations and modes that intersect in online spaces. The paradigm is designed for learning situations that provide time and access to mediated environments where learners develop values for communication skill through practical experiences and structured reflection. This approach to creating instruction has at its core certain values, including risk-taking by participating in unfamiliar contexts, appreciating mediated-communication configurations as unique modalities, and placing CMC skills development within larger sets of pedagogical goals. This instructional paradigm does not assume that verbal fluency, grammatical competence, skill in either writing or speaking, nor membership in any age group translates directly to skill in CMC. The methods presented here have been selected because they build tolerance and appreciation for divergent viewpoints. The methods are (1) building interest by having learners select specific media situations, (2) facilitating collaboration by constructing safe spaces, (3) directly teaching CMC reading skills, (4) using examples and matched non-examples, (5) investigating CMC principles in real world examples through structured discussions, (6) showing the process of different communications’ development, and (7) using roles in discussion designs.


Instructional design theory CMC Instruction Educational paradigm Instructional theory Communication Instructional design Digital natives 



I am indebted to my colleague Alistair Van Moere PhD for his insights and collaboration during the testing and development of early instructional designs targeting the development of CMC skills, to Charles M. Reigeluth PhD who provided feedback on an early version of this paradigm, to Susan C. Herring PhD whose teaching dramatically influenced the development of the curricular areas incorporated into this paradigm, and to Andrew F. Barrett who provided key technical help at crucial moments in the development of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Indiana University BloomingtonBloomingtonUSA

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