Throughout your work as an online learner you develop effective communication skills when you engage in threaded discussion forums and send email, submit written assignments and give oral presentations. Communication takes place continuously with your instructor and classmates as you interact with the information presented in your course materials.
More effective communication practices lead to a more effective learning process. Business students are probably already familiar with the "7 Cs" from their business communication courses, but these guidelines can be applied to a range of professional settings, including your online course. As you review the seven Cs listed below, keep in mind that they are not independent of one another, they all work together to help you communicate both in written and oral formats.
Clear writing and presentations are easy to understand. They allow the reader or listener to understand the meaning of your message, as you intended it to be understood. Consider word choice as well as the formatting and structure of your documents and presentations to reduce or even eliminate confusion. Simplify your vocabulary. Complicated words may seem sophisticated, but often alter or even misrepresent the points you are trying to make. Check out the Purdue Online Writing Lab's tips for improving sentence clarity.
Provide a complete picture and all the information required for a reader/listener to take action and respond. Be sure to include all of the required components of each assignment so that your instructor will have everything that is necessary to evaluate your work. Answer the who, what, when, why, where, and how questions as appropriate for each of your communication efforts, in everything from an email to your instructor to the submission of a research paper.
Be brief where you can, working within the requirements of Completeness listed above. Avoid including unrelated information, unnecessary repetition, and lengthy explanations that do not add to or improve your communication in a helpful way. Practice writing concisely with an exercise [PDF] from San Jose State University's Writing Center. Being concise, while providing all of the necessary details, can be a balancing act.
Reinforce your words, both written and oral, with specific facts and figures. These might include visual communication techniques such as images and graphics, as well as tables and charts. The goal of this technique is to reduce or eliminate the possibility of your audience misunderstanding your message.
Professional communication in your online course includes making sure that the message you send is correct. Your assignments and correspondence should contain accurate information. Proofreading is also helpful to address correctness in terms of typos, spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Unsure about the difference between "further" and "farther?" Confused about comma use? Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing is a reference guide available online. Does your academic program require you to use a specific style guide for written assignments (e.g. APA, MLA)? If you aren't sure, check with your instructor.
Online communication can be complicated, especially when you want to convey emotion or urgency, perhaps in an email to your instructor or members of a student group. Your overall tone and approach should be professional in nature at all times. The Core Rules of Netiquette include 10 techniques for being polite online. The bottom line: Respect others and remember that your communication efforts reflect directly on you.
Consideration is directly linked to Courtesy. Who is the intended recipient of your message? Focus on the needs and expectations of the audience of your communication, whether you are joining a small group study session with your peers or submitting an assignment to your instructor for evaluation. Adjust your approach accordingly and maintain a positive outlook.
My research for this post turned up a few more Cs related to effective communication. Can you suggest any more?
- Confident: Your communication should demonstrate your level of knowledge and comfort with the topic you are either writing about or presenting in person.
- Conversational: Especially applicable to discussion assignments, both synchronous and asynchronous.
- Coherent: Easy to understand, read or listen to with a logical flow and sequence. This one is closely related to clarity.
- Creative: Using your voice to interpret and relay information in writing and orally, as well as other formats, like multimedia.
- Convincing: Are you trying to persuade your audience? If so, be sure to focus on clarity, completeness, and correctness to send your message.
- Check: It might be helpful to create a checklist to make sure you've addressed all of these important areas before hitting "send." Asking someone else to proofread may be helpful as well.
For more information and guidance explore the resources available at your school, including writing assistance centers like the Writing Center at The University of North Carolina. Look for how-to resources, examples, tutoring, and review/feedback services.
Practice and improve your communication skills now through your online course requirements. You'll see the benefits as you transition to the workforce and communicate with supervisors, coworkers, clients, and customers.