Communication and Expectations
When I was in Denver for the Christmas holiday, I asked my mom to teach me to knit. So ever since returning home to St. Paul, I have been diligently working on my "first knitting project" - a scarf. I was talking to my mom yesterday on the phone, and feeling rather proud of how far I've come with the scarf, I told her I would send her a picture of it — as a text message, via her cell phone.
My mom is, at best, a novice texter. When she does happen to receive a text, her first thought is that she has a voice mail message and she will repeatedly dial into her voice mail only to be told (repeatedly) that she has no messages. So I told her to be sure to "view" my message when she got it and to not call her voice mail.
About five minutes after I sent the text I received one from her. I expected she would say something like "Looks great!" or "Love it!". However, the message I received was "Got4". Hummm. Two minutes later another message: "Gotit". Getting closer. And then that was the end of the communication. Not terribly satisfying after a month's work on my masterpiece.
This entire exchange got me thinking about methods of communication, expectations of those methods, and how that plays out in online teaching and learning. Since their inception, online courses have required us to re-frame our thinking about numerous things — community, learning styles, teaching styles — so why not communication?
In online courses do we assume that email is the only way to communicate with each other? Do we expect too much from email and are we overlooking other ways that information is being communicated? Such as: discussion posts, video lectures, audio comments, written lecture notes, text on web pages — just to name a few. Communication doesn't end at face-to-face; nor does it end with email.
It's been proven, time and again, (and not just by my "scarf incident") that communication can be tricky. But if we tweak our notion and expectations of what and how we communicate in online courses, it can also be very rewarding.