And to follow-up, let's get personal: Based on your experience tonight, what do you see as the major issues for communicating online (vs. having us together in class)? How can these issues be resolved through a more "strategic" communication?
Personally, this is a definitively more difficult way to analyze the material. I thrive on in-person discussions, as they are (by nature) real-time and constantly changing. However, I also realize that speaking up in class is difficult for some. Class discussions are always going to feature the opinions of a few outspoken individuals, and miss out on the contributions of others.
Meeting in person provides the following benefits:
- In-person communications allow for the analysis of non-verbal communication
- Participants are forced to defend their opinions on the spot, leading to innovative responses
- Online energy is much more passive and disconnected
- Real-time correction from the professor allows for more focused discussion
Online communications have the following benefits:
- Equal opportunity opinion sharing
- In-depth analysis of ideas
- Distancing of opinions from personalities, allowing for more objective responses
- Presentation of evidence supporting points
- Pajama wearing (no, seriously - I suppose this makes people more comfortable and more willing to contribute)
I suppose this comes down to personal preference, as neither method offers a clear-cut objective victory. Again, I prefer the Socratic method of learning, which by nature requires an active discussion leader. Perhaps I’m demonstrating a bias towards authority, but I believe a professor is an essential part of any theoretical discussion. If we, as graduate students, had all the correct answers, then we wouldn’t be in this course.
The question remains - how do we communicate effectively in an online learning environment? I have to imagine that this type of learning environment will only become more prevalent as social mores regarding online media change. How do we keep the discussion from treating incorrect answers with equal importance as more correct interpretations? Perhaps, instead of essays, the participation in an online chat or forum would allow for a more guided - yet still democratic - approach to online class. This would certainly be more in line with the goals of strategic communication. We would be advancing our mission (education) in a holistic and guided manner, while maintaining a consistent message through professorial supervision.