But what about nonverbal communication?—A look at interactions online

With the continuing growth of online learning in the past few decades, one significant argument against it has been the perceived loss of non-verbal communication and human relationships within the course. Instructors new to the modality often believe that the online delivery format is less interactive than face-to-face, and therefore assume it’s harder (if even possible) to get to know the other participants. Some university instructors even hesitate to teach online because they feel there is a lack of connection and communication, which then creates more room for misinterpretation, negative reviews of the experience, or even failure for some students. Today, I’d like to share the data behind this topic and help to point to the fact that this is not as worrisome as these instructors assume. 

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Looking Through a Learning Tool

There is a spectrum of opinion about online learning, inclusive of two polar opposite sides in the discussion: it’s either new and exciting and every course should be online, or it is a scary new technology that destroys the personal communication essential for a “good class”. As I consider this debate, something that both groups should realize is that it’s easy to fall into the trap of defining instruction through the use of a tool, rather than realizing there is an inherent separation between the instruction and the tool. Today I’ll explore the differences and how this separation impacts our design. 

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Playful Course Design

As someone with a recent background of scholarly writing, I had to overcome my unconscious assumptions that scholarly meant minimal “fun” or “play-based” interactions. After a few psychology and technology courses, I realized there was a smaller divide than I originally assumed. I spent a lot of time trying to find ways to investigate and discuss learning and cognition theories to fulfill my course requirements, but for a long time ignored the obvious truths behind why I wanted to study learning in the first place—witnessing learning either intentionally or unintentionally in various forms of play. 

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Acknowledging the Transition

Life is full of transitions. Usually they involve an alteration in the people around you, the environment, or both. Looking at this phenomenon through an instructional design lens, we can observe two things:

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