Community college students' perceptions of effective communication in online learning
This quantitative research project analyzed the application of instructional communication tools and techniques used by community college students to determine how they perceive communication in their online classes. Online students from a community college participated in this study by completing an electronic survey. Data analysis revealed that these participating students communicated primarily through written online communication tools such as posting of class notes, email, and discussions. Students lack exposure to more innovative communication tools such as teacher-made audio and video presentations or live conversations and demonstrations through the use of Wimba or other tools, which are readily available in the robust course management systems today. To produce more engaged and active learning experiences, online instructors need to employ a variety of communication tools to accommodate all learning styles. Participants of this study do not perceive the effectiveness of their online communication to be as effective as communication in their traditional classes. Instructors cannot decrease transactional distance if they do not effectively utilize online communication tools to create meaningful interactions. Results also showed a strong correlation between communication and satisfaction levels of students regarding online classes. Students in this study indicated more satisfaction toward online classes when effective communication maintained a strong presence. The study results also indicated that students identified effective communication as a major factor of motivation in completing an online class. Students reported communication-related barriers such as lack of community interaction, delayed responses from instructors, and an inhuman feel to the online experience. Recommendations for practice included the following: (1) provide additional training for instructors on the effective uses of communication tools in online classes; (2) implement a mentoring program that pairs beginning or struggling online instructors with exemplary online instructors; and (3) develop a policy on virtual office hours that allows online instructors to schedule office hours for their online students outside of their traditional working hours. Virtual office hours allow students and instructors more opportunities for communication.