The Importance of Tone and Attitude in Email and the Online Classroom

The Importance of Tone and Attitude in Email and the Online Classroom

Melissa A. Miller (Purdue University Global, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9814-5.ch004
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In the online classroom, email has emerged as a predominant communication method between students and faculty. Despite many benefits of email, including ease of use, familiarity of the technology, and rapid response times, there are numerous challenges faculty face when sending and receiving email correspondence with students. Mainly, due to the medium and format of email, with its lack of cues such as body language, inflection, and other sensory stimuli, it presents a paramount challenge to faculty. However, appropriate tone and attitude in emails can help mitigate the challenges the medium presents. When written and read effectively and purposefully, email is an effective outreach and communication tool for students and faculty.
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Although email is a relatively new mode of communication, numerous studies have been conducted in this field, particularly regarding email use and the online learning environment and relationships between faculty and students. For example, in a 2010 qualitative study examined faculty members' and students' expectations and perceptions of email communication in a dual pathway pharmacy program, the researchers found “constructive criticism received by email can be misinterpreted as being rude and condescending” (Foral et al., 2010, para. 27). Students also reported feeling “faculty members should be accessible, approachable, and available for email questions” because they are paying for their services via tuition (Foral et al., 2010, para. 28). Yu and Yu (2002) conducted a study which showed “empirical evidence supporting the usefulness of email as a promising aid to promote student cognitive growth” and that “incorporating email into the learning process might be a promising enhancement to instruction that teachers could readily adopt” (p. 117). However, Wood (2002, as cited in Heiman, 2008) found increased positive perceptions of the online community and student-to-faculty relationships, regardless of the number of emails sent (two or 15) (p. 240).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Emoticon: A combination of characters used to express emotion or expression.

E-Learning: Using electronic technology to obtain or facilitate information and instruction.

Virtual Office Hours: A dedicated time for meeting online when a faculty member is available to students, either online via email, Skype, or another E-learning method.

Netiquette: Online, or net etiquette.

Online Learning: A virtual learning platform where information and instruction is shared via the Internet and without a physical classroom meeting place.

Emoji: A digital image used to express an idea, emotion, or item.

Higher Education: Post-secondary education, beyond high school (secondary) level.

Instructional Immediacy: Reduced social distance between faculty and student due to an increased awareness of approachability, caring, and competence.

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