Communication within an E-learning Environment

In our E-learning AQ course, there is yet another very interesting module entitled: 4.3 Interaction.

This first video below highlights a very subtle thought about human communication. there are three major aspects in the way we communicate:

Para-verbal – Speed , rythm, cadence, tone

Communication within an e-learning environment (mainly text) lacks the Non-verbal and para-verbal communication that we really need when we communicate.

E-learning teachers need to “check in” with students when they are in a course, because we can’t physically “see” the students reactions to their work.

Check out these resources on Social Learning Theory and Engagement Theory:


Social learning theory – We learn in groups and by interacting with each other. Learning is strengthened by belonging to a community, building an identity, practice (doing) and learning through experience. This is illustrated in the image below.

Fullscreen capture 2016-09-01 112544 PM

Engagement Theory

  • Have students work in teams
  • Create tangible products
  • Do authentic work that can benefit an authentic customer

Fullscreen capture 2016-09-01 112646 PM

Use student Names, record audio welcome messages, ecourage and personalize comments.

Encourage peer feedback. Peer teaching, model quality by interacting well with students.

Encourage higher levels of blooms taxonomy: Analysis, synthesis, evaluation

Learners solve problems and reflect


There are four basic types of interactions involving students in a learning environment:

  • student-teacher
  • student-student
  • student-content
  • student-interface (LMS)

Question: For each of the four types of interaction listed above give an example and state how you would ensure the best possible experience for the student. For example it can often be challenging for students to have effective student-student interactions in an online course. What tools and strategies would you select to ensure that students communicate effectively with each other?


Student – Teacher Interactions: An obvious example here would be a student needing to ask a teacher for help and/or clarification. In my experience, an email would be sent – which is asynchronous communication (this is one shortcoming in elearning as there is an undesirable time lag for the student to get a response). To make the experience better – a teacher should personalize the message and give high quality, generous insight. Anything a teacher can do that supports the social learning theory and engagement theory details above is a bonus.

Student- Student Interactions : A student commenting on another student’s work is an obvious example here. Students should always be polite, yet, not afraid to challenge each other. Good student-student communication should be honest, well thought out – not just lip service. In commenting on someones work, learning takes place in the meta-cognition that results from just understanding each others work and framing an intelligent question or response.  Any efforts to build community and the encourage the social learning theory aspect of “learning as belonging” creates meaningful learning opportunities. Also, one other suggestion to increase student-student interactions is to encourage “Break Out Sessions” where students might use better F2F chanels, such as hangouts/skype to maximize synchronous , non-verbal and paraverbal communication.

Student – content : An example of student content interaction might be a  student considering how to complete an culminating task at the end of a module. Engagement theory would suggest that students should interact with their content then produce team projects that produce tangible products and serve authentic customers. By the design of the course, students should have well thought- out assessment where students might reflect and self/peer assess each other. Of course, content should be designed to be inclusive, varied, respect various learning types and learning styles.

 Student – LMS  interactions: A student interacting within their LMS might include a student submitting a file to a dropbox using the features within the LMS. It would be nice to have a rich feature set for students to interact with , yet, a simple interface that makes all learners feel comfortable. Students should be focusing their energies on the content of the course, not the LMS itself.

Let me know what you think!



One thought on “Communication within an E-learning Environment”

  1. Hi Dwayne,
    You suggest great strategies for learners, especially for student–student interaction. To increase student-teacher interaction, I would make use of your student-student suggestion of Google Hangouts/Skype. Since we can’t physically see students, like you said above, it can be hard to even determine how they are doing through an email. Perhaps regular visual check-ins could be helpful not only for us to know where the students are, but also for the student to gain verbal and visual clarification, not just through text.
    Great summary and points here!


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