Precis: Non-task Sociability in CSCL (Abedin, Daneshgar & D’Ambra, 2011)

This is an installment in a series of summaries of journal articles that I have been reading.

Abedin, B., Daneshgar, F., & D’Ambra, J. (2011). Enhancing non-task sociability of asynchronous CSCL environments. Computers & Education, 57, 2535–2547. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2011.06.002

CC Image courtesy of Sculpt

Social interactions, which enhance learning in computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL) environments, involve both on-task and non-task (McNeil, Robin, & Miller, 2000) types of interactions.  On-task refers to pedagogical activities, and non-task refers to non-pedagogical activities like providing social support and friendship. Past literature found that non-task interaction does not occur automatically in CSCL environments.  The purpose of this study was to identify and validate the factors that influence non-task interaction. The authors created a conceptual model in which they hypothesized that control factors would affect the learners’ sense of community and the individuals’ communicative behavior adaptability.  They also hypothesized that community and adaptability would positively affect non-pedagogical sociability

The sample consisted of students from a postgraduate management degree at an Australian university.  The pilot study involved 200 student from the degree program, and the second study consisted of 210 students.  The students completed a questionnaire 13 non-task sociability items, 12 sense of community items, 15 communicative behavior adaptability items, 13 control factor items, and demographic information..

The authors used exploratory factor analysis (EFA) and found that perceptions of compatibility and self-representation were positively related to a sense of cohesion and awareness of others.  Cohesion and awareness were positively related to non-pedagogical sociability.

The study contributed to the literature by identifying five indicators of non-task sociability: finding help, sense of appealing, sense of boringness, sense of interactivity, and sense of frustration.  This student also contributes to the literature by establishing and validating a model of the factors that influence non-task sociability. The study also validated an instrument for measuring the factors in the model.

The perception of sociability factor includes social experience and relative advantage. The postgraduate students in the sample may be more experienced in social situations, therefore the lack of a relationship between learner characteristics and perception of compatibility may have been unique to this sample.  This student should be replicated with undergraduate students to determine whether learner characteristics are not an influential factor in the model.

This study serves as a framework for future research, and it leads to several other research questions.  How can instructors influence these factors to encourage non-task sociability? What level of non-sociability enhances learning?  Is there a level of non-task interaction that has a negative effect on learning?  How do different technologies enhance non-task sociability? Does the instructor’s participation in non-task interact affect the level of it? Do the tools students prefer to use of non-task interaction differ from on-task interaction and why?


McNeil, S. G., Robin, B. R., & Miller, R. M. (2000). Facilitating interaction, communication and collaboration in online courses. Computers & Geosciences, 26, 699–708. doi:10.1016/S0098-3004(99)00106-5

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