Computer-mediated communication (CMC) in education has both benefits and problems. The benefits could be increased and the problems alleviated by improved design of CMC systems. Following a user-centred design approach, interviews were therefore carried out with distance learners who use CMC systems. The aim was to elicit ideas for improvements, and to discover which features students find helpful and unhelpful. Ten students of the UK Open University, which uses the FirstClass computer conferencing system, were interviewed individually or in a focus group. Observations of students using the system were also carried out. The study revealed three major areas where enhancements are needed: dealing with information overload; increasing social presence; and providing tools for synchronous communication. The importance of a personalised interface and a high degree of user control were also highlighted
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