Computer mediated communications technologies that enable manage and support such group-based discussion are reviewed in the following. For a detailed review of computer mediated conferencing technologies and a discussion of their uses see Harasim (1993), Harasim, Hiltz, Teles & Turoff, (1997), Mason & Kaye (1989), Naidu (1989), Naidu, Olsen & Barrett (1994), and Rapaport (1991).
E-mail: one-to-one communication
E-mail refers to electronic communication between two individuals with the help of a suitable software application such as Yahoo
mail , Eudora or Microsfot Outlook . Wherever the appropriate technology is available, email is being very widely adopted for private and personal communication, as well as for the conduct of business activities (see also Poling, 1994).
E-mail list: one-to-many communication
An e-mail list is an electronic mail facility that allows one-to-many communication via text-based email communication. Mailing lists are often used to support discussions or information exchanges on a certain subject among a group of people who are subscribed to that mailing list. Upon subscribing to the list, each subscriber gets every message that is submitted to the list. A common form of a mailing list is as a newsgroup. There are newsgroups on just about every subject you can think of. Some groups discuss only one subject, while others cover a number of different subjects.
Inter-relay chat: one-to-one and one-to-many
communicationInter-Relay Chat (IRC) or “talk” is a way of communicating electronically with people in “real time”, that is, synchronously. In this mode, participants in the chat session are able to send and receive messages almost immediately. Of course, they need to be logged on at the same time (see Rapaport, 1991).
Electronic bulletin boards: one-to-many communication
Electronic bulletin boards are like good old fashion notice boards, except that the former are electronic spaces and the latter are physical spaces where you can stick a note with thumb tacks. Electronic bulletin boards are electronic spaces where you are able to post information for others to read at their own time and pace (see Rapaport, 1991).
Computer conferencing: one-to-many communication
Computer conferencing combines the functionality of electronic mail and electronic bulletin or message boards. Messages sent to a computer conference are stored in a central location rather than being distributed to individual e-mail boxes such as in a mailing list. Just as in face-to-face conference settings where participants have to move to particular rooms to hear particular speakers, participants in a computer conference are required to actively access the emails in computer conferences which will be waiting for action in that conference. Once they are logged into the conference, participants can read a response and act on it. This is asynchronous communication because a participant can respond
to a message or contribute to a discussion at anytime and from any place. The messages sent to the conference are stored on the host computer from where a participant can read it, reply to it, or start a new thread (see Velayao, 1994).