Face-to-Face or Online, Online or Face-to-Face?

Face-to-Face or Online, Online or Face-to-Face?

Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1897-6.ch009

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This chapter compares FTF and online communication and suggests the best ways and times to use each method. At times, the approach will seem like a criticism of online communication, but that is not what is being done. No approach is all things to all people, so we have to understand the best path to success. There are positives and negatives with online as well as FTF, and this chapter addresses both. At the same time, it is important to stay focused on the things that are difficult when going from the online method to FTF. That’s the communication gap that is the focus of this book. We start with a comparison of FTF and online communication so we can understand how and when each is the correct method. In online communication the message is created and delivered so quickly that there may not be time, or thought given to barriers to communication. Online communications are characterized by fast conceptualization and forming of the message. In contrast, face-to-face interaction requires a sender getting an idea, forming it for delivery and then fully focusing on the receiver to allow message decoding. Face-to-face interactions are two-way communications, with important considerations in terms of attention to immediacy and receiver attitudes. The sender must pay special attention to physiological barriers, language, and structural design, and the risk of information overload should be low if the sender pays attention to the verbal and visual cues from the receiver. Next, the chapter focuses on ways to negotiate what is a “gap” in ability for primarily online communicators to handle a face-to-face approach. This is important, because in online communications things like verbal and visual cues, emotions and environment are not major parts of the interaction.

A study published in 2011 examined a national sample of people who reported participating in face-to-face and/or online discussions, reporting that the online only group, relative to the other three groups, was less knowledgeable, less trusting, less capable of producing a desired result, less tolerant, and less interested in politics. This group also had lower trust than those who did not deliberate at all. An education-based study is covered in the chapter, discussing how students from two institutions stated reasons for selecting the online format for courses instead of face-to-face, with many noting that there were lower levels of instructor presence in online courses. Students cited two reasons for their online preference: they appreciated the flexibility and convenience and some felt that they could use their learning time more efficiently (Jaggars 2014). Many students said they learned better in the face-to-face courses. Many students simply felt they didn’t learn the material as well when taking the course online, emphasizing their need or want for student-instructor and student-student interaction. The chapter demonstrates that communicators must realize that loneliness is present and work to address it. We cover hyper-personal interaction, social presence limitations, and lack of full-range communications in online interactions that may still allow for intense relationships, reciprocation, and strong involvement. As we completed a limited literature review, it became clear that several of the studies had relevant findings in terms of non-verbal communication. The bottom line is that non-verbal communications convey information about a lot of things we need to know. The chapter briefly covers crisis communication activities, stressing the need to be prepared for FTF and online communications. Finally, we ask the question when is the right time to forego online and use FTF, or oral, communication? One example is when the receiver is not really interested in getting the message. This is when FTF senders can employ verbal and visual cues to seek and nurture opportunities to get and keep the receiver’s attention, allowing message delivery.

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