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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Building Relationships and Increasing Engagement in the Virtual Classroom

Martin. J. (2019). Building Relationships and Increasing Engagement in the Virtual Classroom. Journal of Educators Online, 16 (1), 232-238.

One of the challenges of teaching in an online environment is how to address the sense of disconnection and isolation that many online students report, and which tends to be de-motivating and to undermine engagement in learning.

How can instructors build relationships with students and foster a sense of community which supports student engagement in an online environment? This article provides quite simple and practical strategies using digital technology tools and simple videos to help to bridge the “social gap” in online learning environments.  The author describes how instructors can use screen recording, videoconferencing software and social media platforms to connect with students in a more personal and immediate way.  These tools can also be used to provide personalized feedback to encourage engagement and to enable students to connect with one another, to share photos, interests and ideas , and so reducing isolation and increasing engagement.

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Teaching Presence in Online Course for Part-time Undergraduates

Baker. Credence (2010). Teaching Presence in Online Course for Part-time Undergraduates. The Journal of Educators Online, 7(1).

This paper begins by noting that researchers have moved from establishing the notion that there is no significant difference between face-to-face and online learning to extending research to empirically validate best practices in online learning thus providing more effective online courses and taking advantage of the unique features of the online environment. Instructors in blended courses do have the opportunity to establish positive teaching presence and immediacy in the face-to-face component of their courses, but these two practices may have implications for learner motivation, active learning and participation and achievement of outcomes in the online portion. The author refers to other research that notes that instructors can convey “visibility” with regularly scheduled interactions, inform students of their availability, provide feedback that is consistent and meaningful, be present as an effective moderator in discussions and use their content background to reactivate discussions that languish. The study results provide interesting distinctions between the effects of instructor presence and instructor immediacy on student behaviour and outcomes.

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Virtual Education in ELL – Opportunities, Challenges and Potential

Bow Valley College. (2015). Virtual Education in ELL – Opportunities, Challenges and Potential (p. 66). Calgary, AB: Bow Valley College.

This 2015 report focuses on issues of learner isolation and instructional distance in an online workforce-related course for newcomers to Canada (CLB 7 or higher). The literature review investigates the notion of learner isolation, a common problem in online courses, which can lead to frustration, decreased motivation and withdrawal from online courses. The report proposes mitigating strategies to develop social presence in online language courses. The report goes into detail about the importance of instructor presence online e.g., instructor bios, photos, frequent videos, frequent news and quick replies to participants; as well as one-on-one contact between instructors and learners. It cites other research that defines social presence as the ability for learners to connect with other participants as “real people”, despite not being in the same physical environment with them. Although this report is based on applied research in an online course, it echoes participants’ comments in Lawrence’s report about the need for a “human feel” (see Geoff Lawrence. (2014, May). A Call for the human feel in today’s increasingly blended world later in this bibliography).

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