Office for Digital Learning

Communication and Collaboration

Considering Types of Communication Tools

Posted on: 19 May 2016

Effective communication and collaboration is key to the success of any course. In any course its good to have a blend of tools for communication and collaboration, here are a few points to consider in terms of choosing a type of communication tool.

  • Do you require real time communication?
  • How will you archive or record communication so that students can look back on it?
  • Do you want to have communication channels that give students time to reflect before participating?
  • Is urgency an issue?
  • Is privacy an issue?
  • Can students communicate via a mobile device?
  • Are you communicating with an individual, a group or do you want students to interact with each other?

Asynchronous communication

Asynchronous communication takes place with a time lag.

Discussion forums, blogs and email are examples of asynchronous communication tools. Students and lecturers can connect with each other at different times from different locations.

Advantages of asynchronous communication
  • Asynchronous communication has a pedagogical advantage in that it encourages critical thinking. Discussions online are often of a higher quality than they would be in a face-to-face situation due to the fact that participants have time to think about the discussion at hand and to reflect before posting their contributions.
  • People who find it difficult to speak in a traditional classroom environment, can be encouraged by the 'faceless' aspect of the online environment and often feel more confident in making a written contribution.
  • It is more flexible than 'real time' communication. Participants can access discussions and make a contribution at a time and place that suits them best. This suits cohorts from multiple time zones as it is accessible for anyone to take part at any time.
  • Contributions are available for a time after the discussions have ended. This provides a repository of ideas and opinions that can be used for reference purposes throughout the course.
  • Students in an online environment often report feeling that the online tutor is more 'accessible' than he/she would be in a face-to-face setting, and often build up a better rapport with the tutor. When students receive more individual attention it improves their motivation and confidence.
  • Online communication methods, can help participants on an online course to build a sense of community as they share ideas and knowledge and begin to learn collaboratively.

Synchronous communication

Synchronous communication takes place in real time, online conferencing, chat rooms, instant messages and web conferencing tools are example of synchronous communication tools.

Students and lectures with each other can connect at the same time from different locations

Advantages of Synchronous Communication
  • Real time Collaboration, more personal and increases social presence in a learning community.
  • Audio / Visual allows for visual cues and can engage people instantly.
  • It’s more conversational and allows for clearer understanding of key concepts and issues arising.
  • Immediate responses and feedback and good to keep a cohort on track throughout a course.