E-Mail Protocol and Online Learning
Grandberry, Sandi, Distance Learning
As distance learning, online learning, and hybrid courses become more prevalent, unexpected problems arise and solutions must be formulated. Many problems have been recognized and solved. Some are recognized, but no effective solutions have been formulated. The problems that appear to be addressed first are technical, not personal. This would lead to the conclusion that many student-based recurring problems that are not being adequately addressed comprise the overall problem of alternative learning-student education on appropriate and effective computer use, is highly lacking. This article will discuss one of the problems related to this overall problem and offer some solutions.
While distance learning has existed for many years, the problems unique to the use of the Internet are new and becoming more evident with the increase in its use for educational purposes. Many problems have been identified, such as accommodating the handicapped, addressing different cultural needs, keeping assessment requirements the same for distance and traditional learning, ease of cheating in distance learning, time zone differences, solving the need for hands-on lab work, special needs of auditory learners, students' lack of technical knowledge, and communication protocol for e-mail messages, including clarity of intent on the part of the sender and understanding on the part of the recipient.
There are many challenges to appropriate e-mail communication; for instance, the tone of writing can be mistaken for the wrong meaning or that facts given without explanation can be taken as a strict statement or belief on the part of the writer when, in reality, the writer is simply providing research information found, and other e-mail protocols.
Researchers from New York and Kentucky discuss the importance of proper e-mail communication in the classroom, "students' active participation is essential for learning to occur.... In e-mail communication, this includes both an understanding of the purpose of the activity and a willingness and motivation to take part in it" (Liqing & Boulware, 2002). As adults are introduced to this new method of communication, they have no background in the field and there is a shortage of instruction available to assist them when signing up for alternative learning that requires e-mail communication.
There are many solutions to this problem for adult learners. Solutions such as a prerequisite class on e-mail use and etiquette, tutorials available online, interactive computer-based training, and so on. These are short-term solutions almost like putting one's finger in the hole in the dike. It will stop the flow of water, but something must be done to make the problem go away on a more permanent and stable basis.
Instruction on computer use should begin in elementary school. If students, starting in elementary school, were taught to use e-mail, they would grow to adulthood owning the skill. This would be a more permanent and stable solution to a growing problem.
In a study conducted with second graders, it was found that everyone benefited from teaching the students proper use of e-mail communication. The teacher was able to give individual instruction and feedback to the students, the parents eagerly participated, the students learned to use this method of communication to discuss parts of books they particularly enjoyed, and the researchers could communicate directly with students to give them praise for a job well done. In a case described by Liqing and Bouleware (2002), second-grade students came to class excited to find out if "I have a message from Dr. Boulware or Dr. Tao?" and, then when an e-mail arrived, "Look, Dr. Boulware says she likes my book."
These young students made progress in more than just mastery of the skill of using e-mail, but in sentence structure and general communication of their ideas. …