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advantages and disadvantages of online communicatio

Advantages and disadvantages of online communication

There are clear advantages and disadvantages of online communication that need to be considered when planning civic engagement.

You can find an updated version of this post here.

I found this on Wikiversity, one of the many resources on Wikipedia, today. Whenever we talk about engaging communities online we are inevitably questioned about “exclusion” issues. What socio-demographic group does this technology favour? Who is being excluded from this debate?

As with any and all community engagement techniques, online community engagement is not a panacea. It has advantages and disadvantages. It is a relatively easy technology for some and relatively more difficult for others. There are two critical messages… No technique can stand alone. And, just because a technique is new that doesn’t mean it has to solve every single problem to be worthwhile.

What follows is drawn from a post on Wikiversity about online education. Many of the comments and lessons are similar and familiar, particularly if you think about the community engagement process as a mutual learning space.



Flexibility: accessible 24×7, any place as long as you have an internet connectionText-based: Predominantly relies on inputting text which can be challenging for those who don’t like to write or have poor keyboard skills, but with the advance of broadband connectivity and voice and video conference technology – this will be less of an issue.
Levelling: reserved people who usually don’t speak up can say as much as they like while “loud” people are just another voice and can’t interruptNo physical cues: without facial expressions and gestures or the ability to retract immediately there’s a big risk of misunderstanding
Documented: unlike verbal conversation, online discussion is lasting and can be revisitedInformation overload: a large volume of messages can be overwhelming and hard to follow, even stress-inducing
Encourages reflection: participants don’t have to contribute until they’ve thought about the issue and feel readyThreads: logical sequence of discussion is often broken by users not sticking to the topic (thread)
Relevance: provides a place for real life examples and experience to be exchangedTime lag: even if you log on daily, 24 hours can seem like a long time if you’re waiting for a reply; and then the discussion could have moved on and left you behind
Choice: a quick question or comment, or a long reflective account are equally possibleInefficient: it takes longer than verbal conversation and so it’s hard to reply to all the points in a message, easily leaving questions unanswered
Community: over time can develop into a supportive, stimulating community which participants come to regard as the high point of their courseIsolation: some learners prefer to learn on their own and don’t participate in the discussions
Limitless: you can never predict where the discussion will go; the unexpected often results in increased incidental learningDirectionless: participants used to having a teacher or instructor telling them what to do can find it a leaderless environment (and that’s where tutors come in

Photo Credit: Good, Bad & Ugly by Nishanth Jois

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One Comment

  1. […] back in November 2008 I posted a list of advantages and disadvantages of online communication draw from Wikiversity. At the time I posted the lists with very little comment. It has since proven […]

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