Communication Strategies and Tools for Online Instruction


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Presented at Teaching Engaging Online Courses at Northern Illinois University on January 13, 2012

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  • Hi! My name is Stephanie Richter. I’m the Instructional Technologies Coordinator with the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center at Northern Illinois University. This lesson is about communication strategies and tools which facilitate communication. In an online course, you have to re-think the way you communicate with students. Without face-to-face sessions, you can’t explain difficult concepts directly. You can’t give reminders and clarifications on assignments, and you can’t solicit questions from the students. In my opinion, strong communication is the most significant way to build engagement into your courses. Students want to feel your presence, and the presence of their classmates. They want to feel connected. It is easy for students to feel distant and disconnected from you and from their classmates. This is why communication strategies and tools are so important.
  • There are three parts to the communication model for a course: the Instructor, the Learners, and the Content. Each component of the system communicates with the others. The Learners should also communicate with each other.This is difficult in an online course, because distance and time act as barriers. Fortunately, there are several technologies that allow you to breach those barriers and build community, without meeting face-to-face.
  • Communication can be divided into two general categories: Synchronous and Asynchronous. Synchronous communication occurs in real time. Communication can occur spontaneously, and you can receive immediate feedback. Synchronous communication is quick and the most active way to communicate. This means that synchronous technologies are most useful when you want to hold a conversation and provide quick responses. Asynchronous communication does not occur in real time. Transmitting and receiving are separated by a time delay. Asynchronous communication takes longer than synchronous communication, but it is more flexible. Asynchronous communication can bridge both time and geography. Messages are generally more deliberate and all participants have an equal voice.While it is possible to teach online completely asynchronously, it generally takes a combination of both for a course to be effective.
  • You may already be using some communication tools in your face-to-face courses, like email or Blackboard Announcements. How many of you use Announcements? Another common communication tool is the Discussion Board. How many? These are both great asynchronous tools. What about synchronous tools? The most common synchronous tools fall into the category of web conferencing software. Here at NIU, Wimba Classroom is available campus-wide, although we will soon be upgrading to Blackboard Collaborate, although there are other options. These tools are based on VOIP technology that allows you to hold live conversations with all of your students at once. They also allow you to display content to everyone, like PowerPoint slides or a software demonstration.However, don’t overlook simple tools, like the telephone, for some of your communication. Not all tools need to be fancy.
  • Most importantly, how will you build a sense of community?
  • That completes the presentation. Let’s take a moment to review. Communication is essential in an online course. It can be either synchronous or asynchronous, but most courses will require a combination of the two. There is a wide variety of communication tools available. We only covered a few of them. You can stay current on technology trends by following Educause, reading journals on technology in higher education, or subscribing to a blog on the topic. However, it is important to remember that the tool has to serve a purpose in your course. Technology is always exciting when it’s new, but that does not mean it is the correct tool for your course.Thanks for watching this presentation. I’ll see you online!
  • Communication Strategies and Tools for Online Instruction

    1. 1. Communication Strategies and Tools Stephanie Richter Instructional Technologies Coordinator
    2. 2. Communication Model Learners Instructor Content
    3. 3. Types of Communication Synchronous Asynchronous• Occurs in real time • Send and receive separated• Spontaneous by time delay• Immediate feedback • More flexible, bridges time• Quick and active and geography• Useful for conversation with • Messages are more quick responses deliberate • Gives all participants a voice © Librarian in Black © john_a_ward
    4. 4. Choosing Tools
    5. 5. General Tips• Choose tools that solve problems/meet needs• Provide multiple ways for students to contact you (phone, email, virtual office hours, etc.)• Set clear expectations for all communication• Communicate early and often• Create two discussion forums – Ask questions – Off-topic conversations
    6. 6. Managing Email• Set (and enforce) clear expectations – Subject line – Language – Response time• Use GroupWise Rules to sort course-related email into a folder• Have students post general questions to a discussion forum
    7. 7. Communication Tools• Webconferencing (Blackboard Collaborate/ Wimba, etc.)• Blogs• Discussion Board (Blackboard)• Groups (Blackboard)• Text messaging• Twitter
    8. 8. Technology Summaries• Features• Limitations• Examples of use in your courses
    9. 9. Communication Plan• How will you communicate: – Reminders? – Clarifications? – Feedback?• How will students: – Ask questions? – Submit assignments?
    10. 10. Summary• Communication is essential in an online course• Communication can be synchronous or asynchronous – Most courses will require a combination• There are a lot of communication tools – Stay current: • Follow Educause • Reading journals on technology in higher education • Subscribe to a blog – Every tool you use has to serve a purpose