Re: WWW Conferencing

Undetermined origin c/o Postmaster (POSTMASTER@vm.ucs.UAlberta.CA)
Thu, 8 Jun 1995 15:59:59 -0500

Ralph Wilson says:

>It seems to me that listserver conferencing "comes to you,"
>while Web conferencing you have to deliberately go out and find.
>Have you had enough experience to weigh the pros and cons of
>listserver vs. Web conferencing?

and David R. Woolley wrote:
The main problem with mailing lists is that they don't provide any
structure. E-mail messages are not organized by topic.


I agree that the best feature of e-mail is that it "comes to you".
This debate is hot in the online publishing field too. What online
publishers seem to have learned (and we can learn from them)  is that
they cannot 100% substitute  e-mail with  WWW, because  people love
to receive "passively" their information  and not even have to think
about it.  E-mail is unobtrusive  and passive, even though it allows
high degree of interactivity.
But it seems to me that there are few problems with e-mail, one of
them mentioned by David: the lack of structure in the messages.

I would add another one:  reliability of e-mail connection.  If the
design of the course requires high interaction, among the students
and with the teacher,  using only e-mail can  become a nightmare (I
have direct experience of it).  Students connected through commercial
services (AOL etc.) are particularly likely to miss messages or
receive them with great delay. A recent survey by Forbes (I am not
sure of the citation. It comes from a discussion on the online-news
list) found that about 10% of all messages NEVER REACHED DESTINATION.
And they were only testing U.S.  mailing boxes. I can tell you that
the situation in other countries is even worse.  Teaching my Internet
class (with students worldwide) I was sick to receive every time the
error message "HOST UNKNOWN'  for about half of the messages, even
though I was sure that the addresses were right and active. Some of
them  received the messages 10 days after the delivery !?!
This can be a serious problem in online education (I believe more
than it can be in publishing) and kill the best part of Internet
learning: interaction.
I don't know very much about www conferencing, but it seems that at
least when you are there you are sure  with whom you are speaking
with and who is connected. That 's not bad!


Andreina Mandelli
Eph school of journalism
Indiana University, Bloomington (IN)