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Social Conversation and Effective Discussion in Online Group Learning


Educational Technology Research and Development Volume 57, Number 5, ISSN 1042-1629


This paper studies the social talk of high school students in online discussion forums. On-task talk has generally been assessed as valuable discussion because it contributes directly to productive learning. Off-task conversation, on the other hand, is often regarded as useless and a waste of time. Should this social talk indeed be regarded as an off-task activity? Is social talk such as greeting, excusing, comforting and sharing personal feelings irrelevant to learning? This study analyzes threads and argues that social talk is interwoven with on-task talk. It is interesting to note that a substantial quantity of off-task messages served the latent function of guiding group discussion toward making progress in solving collaborative problems in a subtle and indirect manner. The power of "soft talk" embedded in off-task social conversation is explored and fully discussed.


Chen, F.C. & Wang, T.C. (2009). Social Conversation and Effective Discussion in Online Group Learning. Educational Technology Research and Development, 57(5), 587-612. Retrieved October 22, 2019 from .

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