• Communication between all of those involved in the learning community is critical to student success in a blended learning experience.
  • Facilitating communication in a blended unit can take a bit more planning. The online environment lacks more nuanced visual and audio communication cues.
  • Social presence is required in a blended unit to optimise the integration between online and face-to-face elements.
  • Online communication needs to be safe, smooth and collaborative and should promote professional respect and courtesy.

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Communicating your unit design Blended learning communication Developing a learning community Live online classrooms
 learning outcomes - communication

Communicating your unit design

It is important to communicate the design of a unit to the students. This should include a rationale related to why is it structured as it is and a rationale for the assessments. Students need to be clear about your expectations and reasoning.

On top of providing this information within the unit outline, you may wish to communicate the design and your expectations through:

  • an orientation module
  • in your first face-to-face meeting
  • sharing a course plan with the students that shows the path they will take through the content, and how various parts integrate

Common language in blended learning communication

The following terms are the two most commonly used within the context of blended learning.

  • Synchronous - communication in real-time, whether face-to-face or virtual. Online this is commonly achieved through web-conferencing tools.
    • creates social presence/community
    • conversational flow
    • able to ask questions
    • minimises sense of isolation

  • Asynchronous - communication happens at a time suitable for the user, also termed ‘anytime learning’. Online this is commonly achieved through discussion boards, email and wikis.
    • flexibility
    • appeals to learners with competing commitments
    • allows learners time to refine and reflect before sharing contributions

Developing a learning community

Developing a learning community is an important part of learning and requires the development of clear effective channels of communication.

Some strategies to create a community in blended units include -

  • Visiting, monitoring and contributing to online discussion forums
  • Referring to online forum content in face-to-face sessions
  • Use of synchronous web-conferencing with group discussion
  • Creation of a ‘Week 1’ self-introduction activity to engage with students
  • Creation of a shared student glossary

Participation in the online space often requires some additional planning and support. This is because it is limited in terms of the open channels of communication. In that asynchronous space in particular, the lack of spontaneity can feel unnatural.

The following considerations can help to make things run more smoothly online -

  • Encourage students to help each other out by asking questions and responding to others.
  • Communicating online takes practice, start small and practice written communication skills.
  • Be as clear and simple as possible when you are writing to avoid misunderstandings.
  • Encourage students to be open to the views of others.
  • Promote sensitivity to diversity and cultural differences.
  • Highlight the importance of respect in the context of differing opinions.

When facilitating learning using an online discussion forum, it is important to consider the following -

  • using a meaningful name in the post heading
  • avoiding plagiarism by providing instruction around use of academic writing style, and citation of resources
  • setting up clear threads to promote discussions staying on topic
  • encouraging participants to read all posts before replying to avoid repetition
  • highlighting the importance of discussing ideas and not personalities
  • avoiding perceptions of SHOUTING (using all capitals)

Facilitating live online classrooms

Some practical considerations need to be factored in when facilitating a synchronous learning experience online. Some things for students and teachers to consider in preparation for these events include -

Camera and microphone check before the session begins, especially for presenters.
Factoring in how the chat function will be monitored
  • a participant could be assigned to this function while someone else is engaged in presenting
Consideration of the impact of audio on others in terms of –
  • use of headphones
  • finding an appropriate space
  • muting microphones
Consideration of the impact of video on others in terms of –
  • selecting an appropriate background
  • dressing appropriately
  • warning others in close proximity that you are using video
The potential impact of bandwidth limitations -
  • resizing images to a smaller file size before adding to a presentation
  • requesting participants to turn off cameras

  • See the LEO: Communication for more information about implications of practice for the various communication principles.
  • Fostering online discussion in higher education (Verenikina et. al. 2017). The guide on this site articulates a set of principles to help lecturers to set up and conduct successful asynchronous online discussions.
Page last updated on 21/04/2023

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