Communication plays an important role in the learning process. It enables the sharing of information, thoughts and ideas which contribute to learning. Communication actually creates opportunities for learning to take place. Besides, it also helps in clarifying information, inducing enthusiasm in learning and building positive relationships among learners. Good communication is essential for successful learning. As there is no face-to-face interaction in distance learning courses, communication is given a stronger emphasis by schools providing these courses. Many of them have established more effective modes of communication in their distance learning programs to compensate the lack of face-to-face interaction.
In distance learning, the course content can be communicated through audio tapes, videos, the web, or printed form. The student will be informed about the course content and course directives. Most importantly, the information should be clearly communicated to the students as they need to know exactly what is expected from them. Many distance learning course developers make use of the internet to provide up-to-date information to enhance learning. Besides course materials, course developers usually include other websites and online journals to create more depth in learning. With the internet, the course developer is able to provide online a great supply of current data to support the course materials.
In classroom teaching, the course instructor is able to show enthusiasm for a topic by the use of his or her tone of voice. However, with distance learning, the displaying of enthusiasm through the use of voice by the instructor is not possible most of the time. In this aspect, many schools which produce course content through the web, make use of graphics, videos and photographs to depict various types of emotions. By using these illustrations, the course instructor can communicate his or her emotions towards various topics to the students. This helps to build enthusiasm for the course content. On the other hand, students can express their emotions on the course through communication channels such as web forums and chat rooms. Thus, they can also have the ease of expressing their passion for certain topics. In this way, it would increase their involvement in the course, build enthusiasm for their course of study and enhance their learning process.
As physical separation can create a sense of isolation, many schools build communication channels to decrease this feeling the learners may experience. In distance learning, the modes of communication include electronic mail, website forums, chat rooms and internet conferencing. Their availability helps to increase interaction between instructor and student, as well as interaction among students. Interaction is important in a learning environment. It can enhance learning and promote individual growth. The communication channels also allow the students to ask questions anytime about the course and assignments. During the course, students may not fully understand some topics and need to seek clarifications with the course instructor. Sometimes, even though the course instructor has explained the assignments in the course content, students may still have questions about them. Hence, the various communication channels are useful for these clarifications.
Distance online learning has expanded communication options used by traditional classroom learning. For example, some methods used by students in classroom learning such as asking the instructor questions after class lessons, telephone communication, one-to-one or group discussions are still used in online learning. In addition to these, online learning has electronic mail, mailing lists, chat rooms, message boards and web forums. Thus, online learning has more communication options available for the students and instructors to interact. As there is a variety of modes of communication available, students can have the freedom to select the type of mode they like to use.
From the above, we can see that although distance learning may lack face-to-face interaction, many schools have established various other modes of communication to increase interaction. With the use of current technology, distance learning has a greater variety of modes of communication than the traditional classroom learning. Hence, distance learning is not lacking in communication. In fact, students in distance learning programs have more communication options to select from.