Exploring WAP technology to enhance online discussion

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In the last decade, while many research studies have shown how computer-mediated communications (CMC) facilitate the learning process (Harasim 1990, Fulk 1993, Nickerson 1995, Angeli & Cunningham 1998, Irvine 2000, Lapadat 2000), the study on Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) in the learning environment has been scarce.<br><br>The main purpose of this study is to explore how WAP technology is used to enhance online discussions towards the building of a learning community. This study is conducted under the research project "Supporting E-discussion with new technologies (WAP, GPRS, 3G) in learning" by the Instructional Science Academic Group at the National Institute of Education (Singapore).<br><br>This is an exploratory study that has adopted both quantitative and qualitative methods. The main research question is "Does WAP technology enhance or limit online discussion?" There are three sub-research questions that examine different areas of the study. The first question looks into the kind of online discussion topic that is best mediated by using WAP-enabled mobile phones. This is done by examining and comparing the brainstorming discussions and the discussions on case studies. The second question investigates whether a combination of WAP-based and WEB-based tools enhance online discussions and address the limitations. To conduct this investigation, comparisons are made before and after the introduction of WEB-based tools. The third question is to consider the implications of WAP technology on online discussions. It is considered through the close examination on the qualitative results gathered from the interviews.<br><br>Five key findings have been identified in this study :<br><br>1. WAP technology complement WEB technology to mediate online discussions so as to build a learning community.<br>2. Subtle roles adopted by students facilitate online discussions.<br>3. The pivotal role taken by the class instructor facilitates online discussions.<br>4. There are technical and physical constraints of WAP technology that may be addressed by its complementary use with WEB technology and the roles adopted by the participants.<br>5. The language used in WAP-based discussions is unique.