Course Communication: Asynchronous
Due to the nature of data transmission or storage and access, asynchronous communication occurs when individuals or groups send and/or receive messages at different times.
One reason that people enroll in distance learning courses is the use of asynchronous communication. In other words, some faculty and students prefer a flexible schedule for communication. This is particularly important for high school students who are seeking a course that doesn't interfere with their current schedule or graduate students whose work schedules interfere with traditional class meetings.
Advantages of the asynchronous approach include
- opportunities for exchange of ideas in informal social forums
- flexibility in work schedules and study times
- the ability to go back later and review class discussions
- peer commenting on assignments
- time to reflect on group discussions
Let's explore tools for asynchronous course communication.
Using the "Announcements" area in a course management system (i.e. Oncourse) is an effective approach when students regularly enter the system. The disadvantage is that these messages are sometimes ignored.
An increasing number of instructors are maintaining a class blog or podcast with course news and information. The advantage of this approach is that students can make comments. The disadvantage is that it may be separate from the course management system and class members may forget to check it regularly.
If students can be convinced to use a web reader such as Google Reader as a regular part of their personal or professional communication, the messages would come to them directly as they do with email.
Email or Listserv Messages
Email is an effective tool because it goes directly to the student's mail box rather than requiring the student to enter the course management system. Some students also feel that this is more personal and easy to respond to than a web posted announcement. However email is easily lost, so it's a good idea to maintain a web page containing archives of these messages.
Group email or listserv messages are a practical way to contain your entire class at once.
Use email to:
- establish an “ongoing virtual presence”
- maintain spontaneity
- keep students on track
- help students feel part of a community
- Topic overview and readings
- Topic review and closure
- Upcoming due dates
- Status of class
- Common problems and troubleshooting suggestions
- News and current events (i.e., babies, new books)
- Personal notes
- Alert to technology problem with web server, email
- Announce correction in materials (i.e., quiz misposting)
Suggestions for individual email include:
- When possible, reply immediately.
- Always let students know you got their email.
- Reply with their original email and a specific answer.
- When grading, include a rubric or checklist.
Tips for email organization and management include:
- Use CAPS or boldface for headings.
- Separate paragraphs with an extra space.
- Use () for side conversations and special notes.
- Keep an email folder for each class
- Move the student email folder to the new class.
Some instructors use a news or general forum for class announcements, news and information. However like a blog, students need to remember to check it for news.
One advantage is the ability to hold a threaded discussion about a class assignment or activity.
Consider the following types of forums:
- Class announcements
- General discussions
- Practice posting area
- Informal collaboration
The next section of this course focuses on ideas for course discussions.
Asynchronous (delayed) communication is preferred by many faculty and students who don't want to be tied down by a formal schedule of interaction. It's also a great way to maintain ongoing communication with students.
Create a plan for asynchronous communication for your course. How do you plan to use announcement pages, blogs, email, email lists, and/or forums?