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Principles of Online Design
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Interaction and Feedback

2.7 Asynchronous/Synchronous Electronic Communication
2.7.1 By conducting an audience analysis, the instructor may be able to determine the most appropriate venues for communication with and between students. For successful electronic discussions, whether synchronous or asynchronous, all students need to participate.


A. Conflicting student schedules may preclude participation in synchronous communication (chat rooms).

B. Asynchronous communication (email, bulletin board) provides more scheduling flexibility.

C. Regardless of the anticipated communication format, use the first week to introduce students and discuss rules for participating in bulletin board discussions, email distribution, and chats.

D. Set up a section of the bulletin board specifically for student interaction to allow students to talk about any areas of interest.

E. Instructors may request students to post a short biography on a bulletin board as a first assignment to allow students to get to know each other.



Provide precise information about the type of communication to be used. If synchronous, such as when a guest speaker is online, make sure that all students are aware of the date and time of the chat. Be aware of varied time zones that may cause confusion.

When using synchronous chat, remind students to think about what they write since comments may become a legal record. Consider summarizing the discussion so that students who missed it can review the content. Chat tools used in many systems may provide a log of the session.

Characteristics of chat rooms:

Chat room entries are often limited in the number of permitted characters that may equal three or four lines of text.

A moderator is usually needed to lead a chat discussion.

Characteristics of bulletin boards:

Bulletin boards are able to handle longer entries and store the information for as long as needed.

Bulletin Boards can be designed with different management options to maintain the security of the site. For example, the board could be set up so as to allow access to anyone, or only students enrolled in the course. The conferences also can be managed to allow access to only certain students, which is useful when doing group assignments.

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