Students' perceptions of issues arising from, and factors influencing, group interaction in computer conferencing : a grounded theory approach
The present study aimed to identify students' perceptions of issues arising from and factors influencing on-line group interaction and dynamics in computer conferencing in higher education by recording the perceptions of a group of students who acted as members of on- line groups. The emergent objectives were to develop recommendations and guidelines for the effective deployment of on-line group interaction and elements of a possible model. The research has taken an inductive interpretative approach applying qualitative methods. Interviews were the main tool of data collection and the grounded theory approach, as developed by Strauss and Corbin in 1990, adopted for the analysis of the interview data. The analysis was also assisted by the use of the Atlas. ti software, specially designed for analysis of qualitative data. Issues of validity of qualitative research, following Lincoln and Guba's (1985) proposed criteria of establishing "trustworthiness" such as credibility, transferability, dependability and confirmability were addressed and discussed in connection to the current study. Findings of the study were placed around five main categories addressing ways group participants utilised in order to express themselves in the computer conferencing environment, issues of participation, decision-making procedures, conflicts and disagreements, and finally co-ordination issues. A number of factors affected the categories arose were identified. Relationships between the categories proposed and the code named lack of communication cues were also identified. Conclusions drawn from the study formulated guidelines and recommendations on computer conferencing issues and factors found to affect interaction among the group participants in the text-based on-line environment and proposed elements of a theory following the grounded theory procedures. Suggestions and points for further research along with implications for practice were also included.