Structure, people and power in communication technologies

Susan Greener

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper offers a reflective review of a number of currently favoured methods of communicating between teachers and students in the specific context of higher education, in order to determine which methods may be useful in which contexts of learning. As teachers, we have to decide where to expend energy and time to best result amongst the different communication options now available. Experience of five principal communication channels are subject to reflective review: e-mail groups used outside a virtual learning environment (VLE), discussion forums used within VLE, synchronous conferencing (‘livechat’) within VLE, wikis within VLE based on ELGGTM software, and group blogs based on Mahara e-portfoliosoftware. While these five channels represent different stages of communications technology (CT) and do not include web-conferencing, it is proposed that a brief reflective analysis of these commonly available CTs will allow us to explore their value in learning and opportunities for collaboration and identify characteristics which help and hinder learning communities. Affordances of these CTs are found to include variations of structural fit to expected communication outcomes, and power and identity of communicators, as well as defined purpose, are seen to produce different results depending on the chosen channel of communication.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-62
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Continuing Engineering Education and Life-Long Learning
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2015 Inderscience Enterprises Ltd.


  • communication technologies
  • higher education
  • HE
  • virtual learning environment
  • VLE
  • learning and teaching
  • learning design: communities of practice
  • social media


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