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Effective Online Communication for Higher Education


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Effective online communication in higher education requires several different interaction treatments: teacher-student, student-student, student-content, and student-learning management system. This literature review focuses on how to build effective online communication for college courses. Findings indicate that effective online communication is associated with educators who build the aforementioned interaction treatments into their course design, follow established principles of good education previously identified for face-to-face instruction, provide instructor presence, and integrate a variety of interactive tools to accommodate learner preferences and learner necessities.

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Effective Online Communication for Higher Education

  1. 1. EFFECTIVE ONLINE COMMUNICATION FOR HIGHER EDUCATION Sandra Rogers, University of South Alabama
  2. 2. Which online communication formats, tools & strategies are most effective for higher education?
  3. 3. Elements of Effective Online Communication Outline:  Build 4 Interaction Treatments  Provide Teacher Presence with Immediacy Behaviors  Accommodate Learner Preferences & Disabilities  Borrow Principles of Good F2F Education
  4. 4. Build 4 Interaction Treatments (ITs) Student satisfaction correlates to the strength of ITs (Bernard et al., 2009).  Teacher-student  Student-student  Student-content  Student-learning management system (Davidson-Shivers, 2009)
  5. 5. The Importance of T-S Interactions Moore & Kearsley (1996) theorized that the geographical distance matters less than the course structure. Moore likens distance education to a transaction that could create a psychological space for potential misunderstandings. Arbaugh (2001) found that instructor verbal immediacy behaviors are strongly correlated with online graduate student learning & course satisfaction. 
  6. 6. What does teacher presence look like online? Add image to profile & syllabus.  Feedback should vary to enhance the lack of richness in text-based media (Arbaugh & Hornik, 2006) .  Podcasts improve test performance (Beylefeld, Hugo, & Geyer, 2008)  Host synchronous sessions (Baker, 2010) 
  7. 7. The Importance of S-S Interactions    Student dissatisfaction in online learning was based on a failure to provide multiple forms of communication with & between students (Granitz & Greene, 2003). Student moderation generated more frequent and in-depth discussion for learners (Thormann, Gable, Fidalgo, & Blakeslee, 2013). Arbaugh & Hornik found that student interaction behavior is a necessary component of the communication loop (2006).
  8. 8. The Importance of S-LMS Interactions Online courses that provide e-tools for communication close the distance & provide psychological closeness between the teacher & the class similar to closeness created in traditional courses (Lemak, Shin, Reed, & Montgomery, 2007).
  9. 9. S-LMS Accommodations 4 main media specifications to meet federal requirements for instructional technology: Caption all media  Use Sans-Serif fonts for online text  Provide accessible PDFs that can be read by adaptive technologies  Provide alternative text for all images 
  10. 10. Borrow Principles of Good Education 3 of the 7 Principles of Good Practice in Education (Chickering & Gamson,1987) Encourage Contact between Students & Faculty  Give Prompt Feedback  Respect Diverse Talents & Ways of Learning 
  11. 11. Why are some instructors MIA?   What does it say about an online instructor who doesn’t provide a discussion format? Do they think they’re following Keller’s Plan (1968) of personalized system instruction? If so, they’re incorrect because they lack one key element---use of proctors as tutors (moderators). Online classes designed as independent study are unsuccessful (U.S. Department of Education Office of Planning, Evaluation & Policy Development, 2009).
  12. 12. References Arbaugh, J. B. (2001). How instructor immediacy behaviors affect student satisfaction and learning in web-based courses. Business Communication Quarterly, 30, 42-54. Arbaugh, J. B., & Hornik, S. (2006). Do Chickering and Gamson’s seven principles also apply to online MBAs? The Journal of Educators Online, 3(2), 1-18. Baker, C. (2010). The impact of instructor immediacy and presence for online student affective learning, cognition, and motivation. The Journal of Educators Online, 7(1), 1-30. Bernard, R. M., Abrami, P. C., Borokhovski, E., Wade, C. A., Tamim, R., Surkes, M. A., & Bethel, E. C. (2009). A meta-analysis of three types of interaction treatments in distance education. Review of Educational Research, 79, 1243-1288.
  13. 13. References cont. Beylefeld, A. A., Hugo, A. P., & Geyer, H. J. (2008). More learning and less teaching? Students’ perceptions of a histology podcast. South African Journal of Higher Education, 22(5), 948-956. Chickering, A. W., & Gamson, Z. F. (1987). Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education. Wingspread Journal, 9(2), 75-81. Davidson-Shivers, G. (2009). Frequency and types of instructor-interactions in online instruction. Journal of Interactive Online Learning, Volume 8(1), 23-40. Granitz, N. & Greene, C. S. (2003). Applying E-marketing strategies to online distance learning. Journal of Marketing Education, 25(1), 16-30. Lemak, D., Shin, S., Reed, R., & Montgomery, J. (2005). Technology, transactional distance, and instructor effectiveness: An empirical investigation. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 4(2), 150-158.
  14. 14. References cont. Means, B., Toyama, Y., Murphy, R., Bakia, M., & Jones, K. (2009). Evaluation of evidence-based practices in online learning: A meta-analysis and review of online learning studies. U.S. Department of Education Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development. Retrieved from Thormann, J., Gable, S., Fidalgo, P., & Blakeslee, G. (2013). Interaction, critical thinking, and social network analysis (SNA) in online courses. The International Review Of Research In Open And Distance Learning, 14(3), 294-318. Retrieved from