Online Education: Reflection on Communication Skills of Distance Learners

Online Education: Reflection on Communication Skills of Distance Learners

Satya Sundar Sethy (Indian Institute of Technology Madras, India)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61350-071-2.ch017
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This chapter discusses and examines online learning in distance education (DE) context. It seeks to argue how learners cope with online education and become successful online learners. Further, while learning through the online mode how do communication skills assist them to prevent barriers in their learning activities? A critical reflection on communication skills of online learners is summarized and highlighted. The online learners’ reactions and responses are also mentioned in this chapter, documented in a few case studies available at different journals and Web portals. Further, the significance of blogging as a communication tool of online platform is elucidated with reference to learners’ engagement in social interaction and collaborative learning situations.
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With the advancement and upgradation in Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) distance learning has shifted into another phase, which is quite exciting and enthralling for learners. Distance learners, in this situation, can continue their higher education by opting online learning and can do so from the comfort of their home. The expression ‘online learning’ is known by different titles include;

  • E-Learning

  • Web-based education

  • Online education

Distance education institutions across the globe offer a large number of online courses on different subjects encompassing humanities, social sciences, business administration, engineering, medical sciences, and professional courses. In order to acquaint with and adapting themselves to online courses, learners need some abilities/characteristics include; self-motivation, time management skills, communication skills, and study skills. These skills assist learners to become familiar with the technological instructions designed for online courses and/or programmes. Thus, it is logically deducible that online learners are surrounded with three indubitable elements: technology, instructor, and curriculum.

The online environment offers unique challenges and opportunities for learners and instructors/tutors to establish successful online learning platforms. While instructors design the platform by keeping in mind the target group, their knowledge of technological usability and easy access to content, learners are also moving a step forward and try to do all sorts activities those asked by instructors to do on real time basis. But it is noticed that whatever flexible and convenient online education may be designed by the instructors, learners would take time to deal with an online course and/or programme. They may save communicating time in an online course but spend much of their time dealing with technology concerns (Alford & Lawson, 2009). However, distance learners find online learning as very convenient and flexible for their studies. This kind of learning, therefore, matches with their learning goals and busy life style. Although online education allures many adult learners, but it is warranted with some challenges and problems when they deal with online courses. This is because of different instructional methods used in it and the prior requirement of communication skills involved in it.

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