Silences that Students Encountered

Margaret Daisley
The University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Terry was aware of the fact, when the assignment was made for MU students to recruit group members from OU, that there would be some initial problems of adjustment to this new medium. "Think what happens when you tell people to get into groups," Terry said to me, and pointed out that the most natural first reaction is to look around the room and see who's there. In the virtual world such a gesture is impossible. One student's response, after getting the assignment to recruit group members from the OU class, was to remark to Terry about what a "dark classroom we're in." The instructor had anticipated that there would be some feelings of dislocation at first, but hoped the experience would further drive home the principles of the course content (organizational theory).

By the time they had to work with the OU students on group projects, Terry's students began to openly express frustrations in trying to work with people they had only met in virtual space. "How do you expect us to work with someone who lives a thousand miles away?" one student asked Terry, rather angrily, after class one day. Of course, this was exactly the instructor's point. The experience would give students a taste of what it was like to work with people who may live on the other side of the world, in different time zones, and in different business cultures. But when the students at OU did not always respond to their e-mail, as expected and when expected, MU students weren't sure how to explain, react to, or deal with the silence.

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