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Effective communication is one of the most important components of successful teaching (online or face-to-face). Meaningful dialogue between teacher and student and amongst students can increase student motivation and enhance the learning environment.

Establishing a sense of community, where contributions are respected and valued and individuals feel safe to express themselves to others, is as important in an online setting as it is in the face-to-face classroom.

Many teachers new to online instruction believe that the opportunity to communicate with their students and the ability for students to engage in dialogue amongst themselves is reduced in the online environment. However, the reverse can actually be true. The opportunity for communication is greater than in the classroom because physical and temporal limitations vanish in the online classroom.

Studies have shown that participation actually increases in well designed online settings. Shy students can be encouraged to participate in online discussions whereas they might never contribute in a classroom setting.

Communication can occur synchronously (at the same time) or asynchronously (different times) and may either be one-to-one (e.g., via email) or one-to-many (e.g., threaded discussion forums, chat rooms, etc.).

Given the nature of asynchronous discussions, the depth and quality of the discussion can be enhanced as students have time to think about a point or issue before they respond and topics and discussions can be examined over time.

The instructional strategies used to assist learning generally depend on one or more of three basic modes of dialogue and communication:

  • dialogue between teacher and learner
  • dialogue between the learner and the instructional resources
  • dialogue between and among learners.

For a look at some strategies for encouraging online communication check out our "Tips and Strategies: Online Communication" page.

Check out our specific activities to promote online discussion page for some more ideas.

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Last updated April 13, 2001 © Copyright
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