Online education expands learning and career opportunities to a wider population. The adaptation of new technologies also changes the ways in which information is exchanged.
The virtual classroom offers unique communication methods. Discussion, debate and the sharing of ideas and experiences can enrich the learning experience whether online or in the classroom. Making use of the avenues of communication in the virtual classroom experience can be important to successfully completing your online medical school program.
Communication and Your Online Course
An online (or virtual) program requires that you effectively manage your time, participate in your education and keep motivated. The virtual classroom is a unique environment. Let’s look at the difference in communication methods between traditional and virtual classrooms.
In a traditional classroom, the instructor's ability to engage you in the subject matter depends somewhat on his/her ability to read your body language and adjust the presentation. At the same time, your contributions to the class as a student are verbal and visual. Studies have shown that these verbal and nonverbal interactions lead to greater learning.
In an online course, the instructor must find creative ways to integrate the emotional and nonverbal components of communication which normally occur in a classroom. Equally important is your active participation.
Communicating With Your Instructor Online
Effective communication with your online medical school instructors is important to your success. It serves as a way for your instructor to get to know you and demonstrates your commitment to your studies. Here are three tips for more successful student-instructor communication online:
- Ask questions. The clearer you are in describing your question or problem, the better the instructor’s response may be. Strike a balance between being thorough and brief. Be respectful of your instructor’s time while ensuring your needs are being met. Make effective use of virtual office hours, Skype and other methods of communication that have been set up for your course.
- Show initiative. Don’t be nervous about starting up a conversation with your instructor. Check in with your instructor periodically about course-related problems or questions. When you open the avenue of communication early, it also opens up avenues for further discussion and trading ideas.
- Use all methods of communication that your school has set up. Note discussion forums, video conferences or webinars and make sure you schedule them in your calendar. The more frequently you interact with your instructor, the better your overall online experience may be.
Communicating With Fellow Students
An online course is different from a traditional classroom where students gather in the same place at the same time. In a virtual classroom, your presence is not visible if you don’t respond to discussion boards, emails or chat room dialog. Through your online discussions you may gain new ideas from your classmates and they can learn from you as well.
Successful communication with your classmates consists of taking advantage of discussion forums, chat rooms and chat cafes and participating in a polite and respectful manner. Five key qualities of online communication are expressed in the acronym WRITE.
- Warmth – Remember you are talking to your classmates and instructor, not the computer.
- Responsiveness – Stick with the topic.
- Inquisitiveness – Ask questions rather than make statements.
- Tentativeness – Present ideas as personal opinions rather than absolute truths.
- Empathy – Choose your words carefully. Be polite and respectful.
Research shows that communication is an important key to success. Choose to interact with your instructor and classmates as much as is practical. Create a sense of presence within your virtual classroom community. The more you participate, the more involved and motivated you can be to successfully complete your online medical school allied health program.