Written Communication in an Online Learning Environment




Moore, Michele Schmidt

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Students are entering a workforce that demands competency in writing both for explicit communication through e-mail as well as in products in the company’s day-to-day dealings. Strategies for teaching students to communicate in writing have been evaluated extensively in a face-to-face environment. Many of those successful strategies have been included in the development of online learning environments. However, given that the primary mode of communication in online learning contexts is in writing, online learning environments may provide an additional element that may bolster students’ writing performance and communication ability. The impact of the online learning environment on writing ability has not been studied extensively. This study investigated how students’ written performance and communication abilities evolved while they were learning in an online environment. Four students and three mentors participated in the study. Using a multiple case study methodology, email correspondence and assignments were evaluated to describe changes that occurred in students’ communication, written products, writing process, and self-efficacy as a writer. Students showed the ability to communicate about a variety of needs and problems via email correspondence. The syntax of that correspondence contained many of the conventions of text messaging at the beginning of the course, and these conventions were maintained until the end of the course. Students showed better control in composing, written expression, usage and mechanics when writing for assignments. For most students, their abilities increased in one or all of these writing domains over the duration of the course. Students’ writing processes varied. The student taking an English course improved his writing process over time. For students taking the World History II course, their writing process did not evolve. No students changed their perception of themselves as writers during the duration of the course.



Online learning, Writing, Communication, Virtual high school, Situated learning