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I'm a late forty year old lady who is passionate in whatever she does. I truely think God has created me to care for people and that is why I chose education as my lifelong vocation. I would say educating is not much of a vocation for me but I see it as a mission, obligation and resposibility which I need to fulfil towards God. Nothing can be more rewarding than receiving unexpected calls, greetings, screeching screams from former students who you've taught but have forgotten their names and faces. Nothing more rewarding than to be identified and remembered after so many seemingly forgotten years. Nothing is more rewarding than to be taught by these eager, naive and ever hunger and thirsty learners for knowledge who pave the path for you into their dynamic, unpredictable,unscripted,exciting and spontaneous world. This world of theirs is such a fulfilling and a challenging one that creates the enigmatic horizon that make my life and existence in this world meaningful, significant and justifiable.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Could Oral Communication Skills Become a Casualty of online learning?: A Future Scenario That Could Prevent This

I find the article below entitled "Could oral communication skills become a casualty of online learning?: A future scenario that could prevent this" by Sherryl Tanian and Kandy James from Edith Cowan University, Perth, Australia interesting and timely. Do you tend to agree or disagree with them?

Could oral communication skills become a casualty of
online learning?: A future scenario that could prevent this
Sherryl Tanian
Edith Cowan University, Perth, Australia
Kandy James
Edith Cowan University, Perth, Australia

Abstract: The development of online learning is flourishing because it has many
advantages for both tertiary institutions and their students. Instructional
designers, however, must ensure that students’ oral communication skills do not
suffer due to the removal of face-to-face interaction. Poor oral communications
skills have been identified as a major problem in society, as they can lead to the
breakdown of personal and business relationships (Hynes & Bhatia, 1996).
Unfortunately such skills are seen to be lacking in many employees and graduates
(McDaniel & White, 1993).This paper envisions a desired future scenario for
incorporation of oral communication skills into an ideal online learning
environment. As this goal is not yet attainable within the bounds of existing
technology, a more realistic alternative for the short term is proposed. The paper
outlines a simulated scenario that will be trialled and modified for future use.
Keywords: online learning, oral communication, synchronous videoconferencing

Online learning
There has been a push from students, governments, tertiary institutions and the workplace for the development of online courses (Vician & Brown, 2001). According to Vician & Brown(2001), online learning has quickly became a pervasive study option, offering “anytimeanyplace, one-to-one or one-to-many communication venues”. Online learning is a particularly attractive option for meeting the diverse needs of adult learners.

Online learning has been seen by many educational institutions and governments as the panacea to improve the delivery and quality of student learning. Educational institutions view online learning as a means of coping with diminishing resources while catering for greater diversity in student populations. In addition they believe that online learning will enhance the technological skills required by the workforce (Bailey & Cotlar, 1994).

The changing nature of the workforce, where many part time students work flexible hours or in different locations, has also contributed to the need for flexible delivery modes. Other needs for off-campus study, distance education, flexible delivery of courses and online learning have also been well documented in the literature (Terry, 2001). Students’ criteria for selecting delivery modes can include family and work commitments, working and living locations and their social life. They can also reflect HERDSA 2002 __ PAGE 634

their learning style, predisposition to thelearning venue and ease of study. Other considerations may be availability and capability of hardware and software, and familiarity with technology (Vician & Brown, 2001).

Online learning offers an ideal opportunity to increase learning effectiveness through
collaboration. According to Berge (2000) online learning can be interactive. Students can interact with the content (material supplied by the online program) or with others about the content, and both types of interaction are needed for “efficient, effective, and affective learning” (Berge, 2000). Rather than simply placing class materials (lecture notes and overheads) online and expecting students to operate in isolation, true online learning offers a wide variety of additional learning aids (World Wide Web, Listserv and newsgroups) and access to other learners for information, discussion and problem-solving (Knowlton, 2000).

There are many critics of online learning however. One of the main criticisms relates to
pedagogical issues. It has been suggested that online learning encourages individualism, eliminates the interpersonal role of teachers and students, and consequently, peer collaboration, and removes the interactive learning environment (Carstens & Worsfold, 2000; Jonassen, Davidson, Collins, Compbell, & Bannan Haag, 1995). These authors regarded online learning as an expedient method of delivering education, however, this delivery method could be exploited to save costs, which could ultimately reduce learning effectiveness and encourage the traditional teacher-centred approach. Carstens & Worsfold (2000) also suggested that online learning could lead to decreased literacy through greater use of the informal and abbreviated computer language, and be detrimental to human social development.

Another equally serious outcome of current online learning practices that has received little attention is the decreased opportunity for students to improve their oral communication skills. Already poor oral communications skills have been identified as a major problem in society, leading to the breakdown of personal and business relationships. Conversely, good oral communication skills have been highlighted as a key factor for successful business transactions. Unfortunately these skills are seen to be lacking in many employees and graduates and many educationalists are trying to improve such skills, either by integrating them into the overall curriculum, or by offering separate communication courses taught by skilled communication lecturers.

Importance of oral communication skills
A number of surveys (of employer, students and academics) have identified that graduates require specific skills in both oral and written communications (Hynes & Bhatia, 1996). These findings are also reflected in other studies that emphasised the need for communication, personal and interpersonal skills in graduates (Aziz, 1998; Dirks & Buzzard, 1997). In fact, several studies have identified communication skills as being the most important criteria in job selection From an employer perspective, many authors believed oral communication and presentation skills were the most important skill for career success (Aziz, 1998; Whetten & Cameron, 1995).
HERDSA 2002 __ PAGE 635

A survey of college graduates in the United States revealed a shared opinion with employers. These students believed that both oral and written communication should be taught in more detail in colleges (James, 1992) and they considered the ability to communicate to be very important (Hynes & Bhatia, 1996). While students recognised the need to improve their communication skills, particularly oral skills, Merrier & Dirks (1997) discovered that students disliked oral communication, particularly speaking before a large group of strangers, and the nervousness and pressure, anxiety and fear of failure associated with it. McDaniel and White (1993) and Burk (2001) found oral communication to be of greatest importance, and unfortunately, the greatest student weakness.

Business schools, and academics have been criticised by many authors for their failure to adequately prepare students for employment in business (Burk, 2001; Lamb, Shipp, & Moncrief, 1995). They believed that too much emphasis was placed on specific course content and quantitative analysis while insufficient attention was given to workplace skills including communication. University teachers (Reid, 1994), professional associations (The Mathew’s Report, 1990), the Australian Association of Graduate Employers (1995) and the media have also criticised the inadequate communications skills of Australian university graduates.

Several authors (Burk, 2001; Lamb et al., 1995) believed academics should make students more aware of the attributes employers seek and assist them in developing their own marketing strategy. The oral, written and nonverbal communication skills wanted by employers are teachable skills. Courses need to develop more practical skills (speaking, writing, organising, interpersonal skills) and concentrate less on imparting factual knowledge (Shipp, Lamb, & Mokwa, 1993). Willmington (1989) stated that academics should ensure that oral communication features predominantly in the curricula.

In addition, student participation through classroom discussion and presentations is an
essential component of many pedagogical strategies. Nunn (, 1996) reported that learning was not a spectator sport and students needed to talk about what they were learning, write about it, relate it to past experiences, and apply it to their daily lives. Another study by McKeachie, Pintrich, Lin, & Smith (1987), demonstrated that student participation in classroom discussions increased their learning, motivation, and problem-solving ability. While written communication skills can be improved with “chat” and bulletin board discussions, there is little opportunity for students to improve their oral communication skills. There is a real danger then with online learning that oral communication skills will be severely restricted and may further increase the problem of poor communication skills in graduates.

The challenges of incorporating oral communication into online learning
The challenge is to provide a student-centred environment, which would develop not only deep learning (Knowlton, 2000), but also the social dimension of learning (Palloff & Pratt,1999) while still improving students’ communication skills. Socialisation is particularly important with online learning to alleviate dissonance caused through the lack of visual and audible clues of the face-to-face class (Draves, 1999). Knowlton (2000) stressed the importance of designing an online learning package that would replicate the interactive, student-centred approach of the classroom.

Much of the research into online teaching and learning has concentrated on the use of
interactive multimedia by an individual, and written communications with other students and the lecturer via chat rooms or bulletin boards. Many online courses use asynchronous communication because of it greater flexibility, allowing students to access information anytime-anyplace. Asynchronous delivery provides time for reflection and it lends itself to situated learning where the student can relate discussion ideas to their own environment. It is also cost effective (Mason, 1991) and easier to manage, particularly for groups of six to eight (Simonson, 2000) and those in different time zones. However, asynchronous communication does not give students the opportunity to communicate with peers and supervisors in real time, either through written or oral means. As much of our everyday communication is spontaneous, graduates who were online students may be less experienced, and thus less
skilled in this area.

Synchronous interaction (for example, chat and desktop video systems) occurs in real time and requires all people to be present, regardless of their physical location (Simonson, 2000). Synchronous communication often requires preliminary training and discussions can dissolve into “conversational chaos” if not properly managed (Murphy & Collins, 1997). However, synchronous communication offers four main advantages. It is more motivating for learners and can focus group energy, it helps to develop a sense of “social presence” and group cohesion, provides quick feedback that supports decision making, and provides structure and discipline to encourage students to keep up-to-date (Mason, 1991). A combination of delivery systems can provide a better learning environment (Berge, 2000).

The ultimate challenge
If providing the opportunity for oral communication in online courses is a challenge, then the ultimate challenge is creating a fully online course whose sole focus is teaching oral
communication. The School of Marketing Tourism and Leisure at Edith Cowan University in Western Australia currently offers a fifteen-hour, five session, oral communication course face-to-face on campus. An essential ingredient in the course design is that students develop their skills through presentation exercises in front of their peers and a tutor. They receive immediate feedback from the group and their presentations are videotaped to allow for selfcritique as well. This method has proven to be popular and is successful in reducing participants’ speech anxiety (Tanian & James, 2001). The course has also been developed for print-based external delivery. In this mode the students tape their presentations and circulate them to other students and the tutor for critique. However this approach has not been as effective in improving skills or reducing communication anxiety as presenting to a live audience and receiving immediate coaching. The demand for online delivery offers an opportunity (and a challenge) to develop a course which allows students to present and receive immediate feedback from an audience.

The ideal scenario for an online oral communication course would be for students and
lecturers in different locations to communicate orally in real time. While a study conducted in 2000 by Clark (2001) used the Internet as a means of teaching oral communication students were still required to attend class for their actual presentations. While this method may be suited to those students who prefer a different delivery mode, it is not suitable for students (particularly those living in remote locations) wanting to complete the entire course off campus.

Technology may allow for audio transmission of oral presentations but the visual cues
provide 55% of the impact of a presentation (Whalen, 1995). As students must learn to
portray and interpret the subtle visual cues, computer video cameras would seem to be the obvious solution. Little research has been published, however, on synchronous
videoconferencing as a means of communicating orally with other students and lecturers.

A trial is currently being conducted to develop an oral communication course using chat
rooms, bulletin boards (asynchronous) and synchronous computer videoconferencing that can be studied entirely online. This should provide a better learning environment for students as well as develop their oral and written communication skills. Unfortunately, the bandwidth required for the videoconferencing via home computers and modems is too large for clear presentations at this stage. There could be problems with voice synchronisation, time delays and computer breakdowns until the technology becomes more advanced.

Another constraint to providing an effective oral communication course online is equipment availability. As the technology is relatively new, the cost of cameras may be prohibitive for many students. An equipment loan system would not be financially viable for the institution at this stage either. Computer capability is another constraint. This kind of software requires a lot of memory and the modems need to be of a high speed to accommodate the large amount of video data. The Internet itself is still not sufficiently reliable to ensure transmission at a time when student presenters and their audience were ready.

For the purpose of this study, therefore, the student experience of completing the course at home will be simulated using a local area network (LAN) on campus. Participating students will be in teams of four. Five computers, with small digital video cameras attached will be set up in five separate rooms so that each student can communicate via computer with the other four. The fifth computer is for the lecturer. To simulate the remote locations of the ideal scenario, the small number of students involved with the trial will not meet each other.

For each on-campus simulated session, the first student will give their presentation via the
camera, the second student in another room will facilitate the self- and peer-evaluation, and a third student will evaluate the performance. The lecturer will give feedback via video when required. Student roles will be rotated until all students present have the opportunity to provide feedback and facilitate. A separate video camera and tripod will also be set up in each room to record students’ actions, any signs of apprehension, and their interactions with the computer.

The results of this simulated online trial will be compared to the existing face-to-face and print-based distance education courses, for learning outcomesskills, reduction of
communication apprehension, willingness to communicateand student satisfaction. By
limiting the study to an on-campus laboratory-style simulation, the findings cannot be
generalised to all external situations. However, with the rapid rate of advancement in
computer technology many of the above constraints will be diminished. Equipment
availability, capability and reliability should be at a level to accommodate the general use of this online program within two years.

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Bailey, E. K., & Cotlar, M. (1994). Teaching via the Internet. Communication Education, 43, 184-193.

Berge, Z. L. (2000). Components of the online classroom. New Directions for Teaching and Learning:
Principles of effective teaching in the online classroom, 84, 23-28.

Blitzstein, A. (1980). What employers are seeking in business graduates. The Collegiate Forum, Winter(7).

Burk, J. (2001). Communication apprehension among Master's of Business Administration students:
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Speck (Ed.), New directions for teaching and learning: Principles of effective teaching in the online
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Dirks, R., & Buzzard, J. (1997). What CEOs expect of employees hired for international work. Business
Education Forum, 51, 3-7.

Draves, W. A. (1999). Why learning on line is totally different. Lifelong Learning Today, 3, 4-8

Hite, R. E., Bellizzi, J. A., & McKinley, J. W. (1987). Attitudes of marketing students with regard to
communication skills. Journal of Marketing Education, 9, 20-24.

Hynes, G. E., & Bhatia, V. (1996). Graduate business students' preferences for the managerial communication course curriculum. Business Communication Quarterly, 59(2), 45-55.

James, M. L. (1992). Are we teaching what employers want? Business Education Forum, 46(4), 8-10.

Jonassen, D. H., Davidson, M., Collins, M., Compbell, J., & Bannan Haag, B. (1995). Constructivism and
computer-mediated communication in distance education. The American Journal of Distance Education, 9(2), 7-26.

Knowlton, D. S. (2000). A theoretical framework for the online classroom. New directions for teaching and
learning: Principles of effective teaching in the online classroom, 84, 5-14.

Lamb, C. W., Shipp, S. H., & Moncrief, W. C. I. (1995). Integrating skills and content knowledge in the
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Merrier, P., & Dirks, R. (1997). Student attitudes towards written, oral and e-mail communication. Business Communication Quarterly, 60(2), 89-99.

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online classroom.

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Tanian, S. M., & James, K. A. (2001). Putting theory into practice: Guiding marketing students to better
communication and collaborative skills. Proceedings of the ANZMAC 2001 Conference, Auckland, New Zealand: Massey University. 3-6 December.

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Vician, C., & Brown, S. A. (2001). Re-engineering participation through on-line learning environments: An
examination of communication apprehension, choice and performance. Journal of Computer Information
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Whetten, D. A., & Cameron, K. S. (1995). Developing management skills (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Harper

Copyright © 2002 Sherryl Tanian and Kandy James: The authors assign to HERDSA and educational non-profit institutions a
non-exclusive licence to use this document for personal use and in courses of instruction provided that the article is used in full
and this copyright statement is reproduced. The authors also grant a non-exclusive licence to HERDSA to publish this document
in full on the World Wide Web (prime sites and mirrors) on CD-ROM and in printed form within the HERDSA 2002 conference
proceedings. Any other usage is prohibited without the express permission of the authors.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Welcome to Rozmel-Enigmatica Blog

I welcome everyone from near and afar to join my exciting and mysterious blog. I chose "ENIGMATICA" as it means "mysterious", "puzzling", and "unexplainable". These words might have a negative connotations tag to them. But through this blog, I would like to bring positive meanings to these words. So I welcome all of you to share your feelings with me in my blog.

Area of Specializations

My area of specializations includes:
1. Teaching of English as a Second Language
2. Intercultural Communication
3. Oral Communication
4. Public Speaking

Being an educator for almost more than 20 years, have given me the vast opportunities to venture into the above areas.It is such an astonishing and overwhelming experience to indulge and explore. Communication is the most important skill that one needs to acquire, improve and enhance. One may have all the knowledge in this world. However, if one does not know how to share, impart and explain the valuable knowledge that one has, the valuable and significant knowledge will become static, underutilized, and just dizzle away.Such an injustice act to humankind.

On the other hand, if one is able to communicate well, the knowledge that he/she profess will be dynamic, optimize to its fullest potentials, stretch to unknown horizons and most importantly the knowledge will be imparted, debated by both scholars and non-scholars and will be used by society at large.

By communicating, (let it be from the most conventional way of communication to the most sophisticated and high tech mode of communication) the fundamental basis of communcation that is to convey and to make one's message understood would be achieved. A good and effective communicator is sensitive to the needs and demands of his/her listeners. He is sensitive to the demands of one's cultural differences, personality, language, educational attainment, religions and other aspects that shape one into a unique individual and a society. One finds great satisfaction in engaging in an interactive, meaningful and reciprocal communication as the end product would be the broadening and cherishing one's life with colourful people from every walk of life.

Areas of Specializations

My ar