From Re: Tips, Tricks and Advice and for Facilitators by robinyap on 04 March 2007 19:00:00:
About your question Carol on slow typers - whenever I start an online session I always indicate that typos are ignored and sentence construction not graded so people don't feel that they have to recheck their sentences and lose their trend of thought. I've even allowed for texting in messages just to get them started. My younger students seem to like this idea although frankly I have a hard time understanding all the shortcuts.
The online facilitation programs I've used have audio so I always point out that they could always use their mic's instead so they don't have to type. If this is unavailable and you're only way to communicate is through typing, then I know I have to wait and verbalize this to the group that I will count to 50 or something just to allow for the slow typers.
I know what you mean about the difficulty understanding shortcuts - I agree that I don't mind if the students use txt spk, though I aim to write correctly myself, as I think that it gives them a better model. In addition, it takes me longer to rmbr txt spk than it does to remember how to spell things properly!
The SL chat, and also MSN chat are handy, as you can tell if someone is writing - SL by seeing them type, MSN because it tells you. Both of those I find very useful. In WebCT chat, you have no clues - so if there are no messages appearing, I have no idea if the students are all frantically typing, or if they've all fallen asleep. It makes me much more twitchy, and far more likely to jump into what I perceive to be a period of silence, rather than waiting for them to finish.
I'm never that sure about audio, to be honest. There are two main aspects to it as far as I can tell. Practical - e.g. all having working microphones / speakers, turn taking, bandwidth issues etc. Then there are the more individual based; is audio easier or harder to follow. What if you need to go over something someone said a few minutes ago? What's easier - talking or writing, listening or reading. It presents different opportunities I think. Catching up afterwards is also different. A text chat over 1 hour generally is much quicker to skim read, than a 1 hour audio recording to listen to again, as you can't "skim listen". On the other hand, compared to face to face discussions, it is possible to (easily) capture the audio.
I don't think that there is a "right" answer, nor a "wrong" choice. We have to use both, and make choices. The chances are that our choices will be good for some users, less good for others - in the same way that in a face to face class, some students enjoy discussion sessions, others hate them but like the anonymity of a darkened lecture theatre.