Suggestions for Incorporating Asynchronous
Communication in Classes

Just having a Conference program and making it available to students doesn't guarantee success!  Instructors must find ways to use the Conference so that it is part of the class assignments.

Let's see what Tom Creed from St. John's University in Collegeville, Minnesota has to say about Electronic Communication in his class.

He says that the following are among the limitations of non-electronic communication.

  • Did they write it on the bus coming to class?
  • What are they really thinking about the class?
  • When did they give it to me and where did I put it?
  • Class is over, whether or not the discussion is.
  • Talk fast, the next lecture is not for a week.
  • Betty writes good papers, why doesn't she talk more in class?
  • Sorry, I work then, how about midnight when I get off work?

He says that the following are among the advantages of electronic communication.

  • Allows for increased accessibility.
  • Provides for a more pedagogically sound interaction with the information by students.
  • Encourages more thoughtful discussion by students about the information in the class.
  • Provides more equal participation in the ongoing discussion.
  • Enhances student discussion outside of class.
  • Provides a unique classroom assessment technique.
  • Enhances instructor's ability to archive and retrieve students' work and provide increased structure of information.

Tom Creed offers the following suggestions for making electronic communication work:

Have a rational game plan.  Electronic communication will be beneficial only if you have a well thought-out, rational plan for using it.

  • Use electronic communication to better meed a need for enhanced student learning.
  • Effective pedagogy should drive the use of electronic communication.
  • When starting, only employ what you are already comfortable with.
  • Add new electronic communication technology as you see the need.
  • Choose technology that is most appropriate for the task.
  • Be mindful of the steep learning curve in learning a new technology, especially since technology does not come easily to all.

Some costs of electronic communication:

  • Electronic communication can be a time sink.
  • Web sites and electronic conferences require ongoing maintainence and vigilance.
  • Much of the context of what has been said is lost.
  • Some subject matter is not conveyed well textually (e.g. -- mathematics).
  • Assessing what is true and what is bogus is more difficult.

Some things that will make the use of electronic communication more fruitful:

  • The better you and your students understand the technology, the more useful it will be for you.
  • Know how to get help when things go wrong.
  • Choose the most widely accessible technology that meets your needs, or you can unlevel the playing field.