The Communication Methods of Today's Students

By Chen, Clement C.; Jones, Keith T. et al. | The CPA Journal, November 2012 | Go to article overview

The Communication Methods of Today's Students

Chen, Clement C., Jones, Keith T., Xu, Shawn, The CPA Journal

Is the Phone Conversation Dead?

Today's rapidly changing environment and proliferation of smartphones and other new devices has meant that the ways in which people prefer to communicate with others, find out the latest news, and perform their job duties are changing rapidly as well. The Internet and e-mail came onto the scene gradually at first but soon exploded and forever changed how we live our lives. To some extent, even e-mail appears to have reached a "maturity" phase, and might be on the decline as other forms of communication, such as texting, have come into vogue.

Rather than merely being limited to Generation Y, the mass adoption of texting and other contemporary forms of communication - such as Facebook or other social networking sites - has included many people in their forties and beyond. Nevertheless, there appear to be growing generational differences in preferences and communication tendencies. Many still consider texting to be inconsiderate, particularly when they are trying to communicate face-to-face with the one doing the texting. For example, ask a professor how she feels about students texting or using the Internet in the classroom for items irrelevant to the course.

In addition to professors, managers and bosses might find themselves more out of touch with the younger generation than ever before - making it even more important to understand how the younger generation communicates and attempt to resolve the differences that may result. For example, the short, informal nature of texting can spill over into e-mail messages, where many still prefer to read complete sentences and see traditional spelling. While brevity is appreciated when appropriate, overly terse messages can run the risk of offending the receiver. Fjcamining college students' preferred methods of communicating is potentially useful as a window into how tomorrow's professionals, business leaders, and politicians will communicate. It can provide an understanding into just where communication gaps might occur between the generations, whose defining time periods - that is, the span of years typically associated with a generation - continue to become ever shorter.

Survey Methods and Results

The authors conducted an electronic survey of 166 students at two universities, one a small residential university in the southeastern United States and the other in a more urban environment in the Midwest. The survey, sent to 108 online students and 58 face-to-face (FTF) students, was administered near the end of a recent semester, and students received bonus credit for participation. Participants were asked for their preferred methods of communicating with professors and with classmates and fellow group members for both learning and soeializing purposes.

E-mail was indicated as the most frequent method of communicating for most purposes, and texting was relatively important as well, particularly for socializing. Respondents used neither Skype nor the various social networking sites widely for the purposes indicated, although they reported using Facebook to some extent for socializing.

Students indicated mat they rarely use phone conversations to communicate with professors or even with other students - a surprising result to the authors, given the rampant use of cell phones in society. The latter result has implications for educators; although phone calls are sometimes more efficient for answering detailed questions about course material, students prefer the less personal, more indirect (and arguably both less effective and efficient) method of e-mailing questions to their professors. This gap in preferences between professors and students might widen as professors age each year, while the average age of their students stays the same. In another finding, students were reasonably comfortable with online discussion board participation as a means of communication. Therefore, both online and in-class educational delivery in university and professional settings could potentially benefit from increased emphasis on this type of tool. …

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