Communication

Communication tools

Introduction

The emphasis of this guide is on technologies that inform and support the learning experience. For collaborative activities, i.e communication in support of joint creation of an outcome, there is a separate eGuide.

Communicating with technology is not about the latest thing, a printing press, a computer or the newest app. Communication here is about using technology creatively to meet the needs of learners.

Back in 2000 Frand observed that students took technology for granted and that staying connected was a central part of their lives. Hagner (2001) found that students not only possessed the skills necessary to use new communication forms, but increasingly expected that these new communication paths would be used.

Communication for most of us is about a variety of modes (spoken, visual etc.) to connect with students. Whilst technology can make communication easier and more convenient we should consider reinforcing communication through differing modes and channels where appropriate.

What are the benefits?

Communication tools can keep the students informed, engaged and motivated.

Informing students of what they need to be doing, reinforcing instructions and focussing their work provides benefits for the lecturer in terms of students progressing and developing at the same pace. For the student they know that they are focussing on the correct activities and not wasting effort on innapropriate tasks.

Students engagement with the course and motivation can be enhanced outside of class time by maintaining their connection with the course. Extending the experience in class by adding and signposting additional resources. Reminders of key points, homework and other activities as well as advertising the next session all act to remind the students that the course is not simply conducted during contact time.

One of the risks of not providing the ‘official’ chanel is that students will create their own communication channels. Evidence? Students have been shown to ask friends for course information, of through social networking technology,  in preference to consulting official documentation. The danger of miscommunication in disrupting your course is always present and causes distress for staff and students.

Making it work

The assumption of the technology literate undergraduate student population needs to be demonstrated with quantitative data. Much of the work to date, while interesting and compelling, is intuitive and largely based on qualitative data and observation. A study by the EDUCAUSE Center for Analysis and Research (ECAR), using both quantitative and qualitative data, addressed four questions:

  • What kinds of information technologies do students use, and what are their preferences?
  • With what levels of skill are they using these technologies?
  • How does this use contribute to their undergraduate experience?
  • What value does the use of information technology add in terms of learning gains?

BYOD versus controlled channels

Approaches

Regular focussed communication

Adopt a standard approach

Communicate with other members of the programme and try to have a programme approach

Asking students for feedback on teaching and learning

Consider letting the students get involved. Especially if you are getting the students to work in groups they too will need to communicate with each other around their work. This may be particularly important where student participation in group work is assessed.

Consider making it multimedia

Giving group feedback to stimulate enquiry at next session

Setting challenges between classes e.g. identify the image

Technologies

VLE messages/announcement

Twitter

Facebook fan page

Blog

Newsfeed

Podcast

email alerts

Screencasts

GoogleDocs for co-creation

SMS

Bibliography

Podcasting for academic purposes

Frand, J. (2000) "The Information-Age Mindset: Changes in Students and Implications for Higher Education" EDUCAUSE Review, vol. 35, no. 5 , pp. 17, http://www.educause.edu/apps/er/erm00/articles005/erm0051.pdf.

Hagner, P. (2001) "Interesting Practices and Best Systems in Faculty Engagement and Support," final report to the National Learning Infrastructure Initiative (January 25, 2001), p. 1, http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/NLI0017.pdf.

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