Nonverbal Communication in Text-Based, Asynchronous Online Education

Al Tawil, R. (2019). Nonverbal Communication in Text-Based, Asynchronous Online Education,International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 20 (1), 144-162.

This article describes the findings of a research project conducted to better understand the role of non-verbal communication in an online, asynchronous, text-based learning environment.  The article identifies four factors to be considered in relation to non-verbal communication in the online environment:

  1. Chromenics, that is the study of time in non-verbal communication.
  2. Use of 2D visuals to indicate social presence, e.g. emoticons, profile pictures, photographs, graphics.
  3. eSets, which the researcher describes as resembling paralanguage, and which include, writing style, tone, structure, layout and format.
  4. Lack of communication, i.e., if a student does not receive acknowledgment or response to a post s/he is feels ignored and this may decrease motivation and engagement.

Overall the research points to the critical importance of social presence in the online learning environment.

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Educational Affordances of an Asynchronous Online Discussion Forum for Language Learners

Zhong, Q.M. Norton, H. (2018). Educational Affordances of an Asynchronous Online Discussion Forum for Language Learners. TESL-EJ, 22 (3).

This study asks the question, “What affordances does an asynchronous discussion board offer to second language learners ?” It describes some of the potential of this type of discussion, including providing time to reflect and research before responding and providing a non-threatening and collaborative learning environment. Although literature on this topic exists in fields other than second language acquisition, the authors intend for this study to fill the gap  that exists on its beneficial affordances in SLA.  A literature review  is provided on Affordance Theory and the use of asynchronous online discussion.

The authors identify four themes (Co-constructive collaborative e-learning environment, Group affiliations, Critical thinking and Learner autonomy) and sub-themes that emerged from the peer-moderated discussion forum. Although the study took place in a joint business degree articulation  between a New Zealand and Chinese institution, many of the sub-themes would be familiar to settlement language programs, e.g., greet team members by name, apologize, agree and disagree, introduce new or different topics.  The study reports high levels of postings that exceeded course requirements, but suggests further research  with a larger sample size is needed to determine which factors caused the motivation behind this.

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