This article focuses on the importance of communication in the virtual classroom and its optimal utilization. It is the introduction to a series in which we will explore challenges like the lack of interest and motivation in the virtual classroom and offer strategies to overcome them. We will discuss the basic principles and guidelines for improving the efficiency and effectiveness of communication and observation skills of tutors. By following these tips and tricks the tutors will be able to better engage and carry on more profound interactions with students in the virtual classroom.
On The Importance Of Communication
People feel generally competent and confident when discussing matters of communication. Some perceive communication as one of the fundamental differences between human and other animal species, and as the very element that led to human change, development, adaptation, and domination. But to try and define such a broad term is a difficult task – one that many scholars have undertaken. The essence of communication though can be expressed in simple words: communication is the transfer of thoughts, feelings, ideas, and opinions from one person to another (or to a group of others) through specific channels. There are three forms in which communication can be realized depending on the mediator of the transfer: verbal, nonverbal, and written.
Studies show that when people engage in conversation up to 93% of the information is perceived through nonverbal cues such as facial expressions, gestures, tone, etc. That leaves only 7% for the verbal aspect of the message that is conveyed. As shocking as this may be, the truth is that people can more easily comprehend the messages that are expressed through the means of nonverbal communication. This data shows the importance and significance of so-called body language.
With all of this in mind it is not surprising that communication permeates all aspects of people’s lives. It plays a crucial role in education as well, like it does in most other spheres of human behavior and activities. But what is different today is the environment in which communication flourishes. The rise of the internet has changed the rules of the game. The development of the web, along with the opportunities and threats that it has brought with it, have caused vast and profound change in the daily lives of people. This new medium has created new possibilities of interaction and has an effect on the way that:
- information is gathered and disseminated
- information is evaluated
- people shape their opinions and influence others
- people participate and contribute to their surroundings.
Virtual Classrooms And Communication
The birth of the virtual classroom is yet another great novelty that the internet has made possible. Nearly two decades ago Russell and Holkner predicted that computer mediated learning would be very important for the future of education. Indeed, in the past, learning was a privilege for those attending the classroom. Nowadays technological improvement has allowed us to strive towards more meaningful and higher quality levels of instruction, delivery, and better possibilities for learning. Various tools and forms of interaction have been developed and optimized to meet this objective. One of the most popular types of these is the virtual classroom.
“The explosion of the knowledge age has changed the context of what is learnt and how it is learnt to the concept of virtual classrooms was a manifestation of this knowledge revolution.” (Sathik, Mohamed and Jonathan, Sofia, “Effect Of Facial Expressions On Student’s Comprehension Recognition In Virtual Educational Environments,” National Center for Biotechnology Information, (accessed 18.09.2018)
Marco Van Der describes a virtual classroom as a “use of video, audio and other technology to simulate the traditional class and learning environment as closely as possible.” The virtual classroom is such “a learning environment where teacher and student are separated by time or space, or both, and the teacher provides course content through course management applications, multimedia resources, the Internet, videoconferencing, etc. Students receive the content and communicate with the teacher via the same technologies.” (Sathik, Mohamed and Jonathan, Sofia, “Effect Of Facial Expressions On Student’s Comprehension Recognition In Virtual Educational Environments,” National Center for Biotechnology Information.
One of the key features and main advantages of the virtual classroom is that it allows for live and simultaneous videoconferencing. VEDAMO, for instance, can provide a connection between up to 25 people. This allows the learning experience to closely resemble real live communication. Furthermore, it is very important for the teachers to have good observation and communication skills. This applies to virtual classrooms much in the same way as it does to face-to-face communication. In fact, virtual classrooms are closer to live communication than average online learning. The major difference is that the connection between the participants is mediated by a computer and the internet. However, the most important outcome is that the tutors have direct contact with their students.
Considering the advantages provided by the virtual classroom, the teaching process still faces certain general difficulties and obstacles. One of these is the teacher’s ability to keep up the interest levels of their pupils. That is why it is essential for the success of modern virtual classroom tutors to improve their observation skills. The proper use of communication can ensure the effectiveness and greater efficiency of virtual sessions.
The precise recipe to maintaining a high level of student motivation and optimal tutoring performance in an online teaching environment has yet to be perfected. But some of the “right ingredients” will be in focus in the series “Virtual Classroom Insights.” The articles are aimed at drawing attention to the way tutors and pupils communicate with each other. The main focus will be on:
- the connection between teacher and student
- the skills of teachers to detect a student’s level of interest or lack thereof
- the causes of low student motivation
- the key steps and methods of overcoming demotivation