As a classroom teacher I rarely gave any thought to the forms of communication I'd use with my students. Lots of thought to WHAT I was communicating but little about HOW.
As an online teacher, communicating with students is really job one. Not much actually counts or makes much sense if you can't communicate effectively. Fortunately there are many more ways to communicate as an online teacher than there are in the classroom where I used only one (F2F). Here are the different ways I communicate starting with the MOST effective.
F2F - You just can't improve on face to face communication. Body language, facial expression, and intonation are what we're wired for.
Elluminate - the online classroom: text, audio, visuals, video, etc. Elluminate is how I conduct my online classes as well as meet students for a variety of reasons.
Phone - Highly effective; rarely used as a 'regular' teacher.
Email - Great for one way communication; well it could be 2-way but it really acts like one way.
Moodle Messaging - Sending a student a message on Moodle while they're online is quick, easy and to the point. Not intended for in depth communication.
Gmail Chat/MSN - Also quick and easy as long as they have an account. Useful for the "I'm stuck on question 2" types of queries I've had.
I know some online teachers also use Skype but so far I haven't with students. And this list isn't exhaustive - I also communicate through assignment comments, report cards, etc. but that's not dialogue.
There's NOTHING in the online world that can come close to F2F communication but by using a variety of tools we can do things differently and in some cases be even more effective. The student who seldom raises their hand in class may be less reluctant to text a question or comment. And because communication is so important the quality of the communication we do have may increase. But it take effort and persistence.
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