Tone and Attitude in E-Mail Communications and the Online Classroom

Tone and Attitude in E-Mail Communications and the Online Classroom

Melissa A. Miller (Kaplan University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5631-2.ch043
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In the online classroom, e-mail has emerged as a predominant communication method between students and faculty. As such, despite many benefits of e-mail, including ease of use, familiarity of the technology, and rapid response times, there are numerous challenges faculty face when sending and receiving e-mail correspondence with students. This chapter addresses several of the challenges presented to faculty, including lack of cues such as body language, inflection, and other sensory stimuli. The author of the chapter discusses ways to overcome these challenges including appropriate tone and attitude in the faculty member's e-mails, which help mitigate the challenges the medium presents. The chapter concludes with discussion supporting use of electronic communication for students and faculty, especially when written effectively and purposefully.
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Although e-mail is a relatively new mode of communication, numerous studies have been conducted in this field, particularly regarding e-mail use and the online learning environment and relationships between faculty and students. For example, in a 2010 qualitative study that examined faculty members' and students' expectations and perceptions of e-mail communication in a dual pathway pharmacy program, the researchers found “constructive criticism received by e-mail 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 e-mail 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 e-mail as a promising aid to promote student cognitive growth” and that “incorporating e-mail 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 e-mails sent (two or fifteen) (p. 240).

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