The communications and collaboration digital literacy encompasses how we “participate in digital networks for learning and research” (JISC, 2014). When engaging in online learning, learners will often be required to communicate with their instructors to gain clarification on a concept, to communicate with their peers while discussing course content, and to collaborate with their peers on group projects. Within a course, learners need to know what forms of communication are available and how to utilize these tools, and outside the course they need to know how to communicate in order to create new connections and collaborate with the global community. Learners also need to have the communication skills required to clearly convey both information and opinion.
The MOOC sets a high standard for online learning with regards to helping learners develop their communications and collaboration literacy. Throughout the course, the instructor demonstrates clear and timely communication through weekly emails detailing pertinent information, and through the instructor videos at the beginning of each module. Learners can develop their communication skills by contributing their thoughts and experiences to the weekly discussion forums, where they can also reply to others in the learning community and share resources. Learners can also communicate with one another through the ‘explore’ activities at the end of each section, which ask the learner to use a discussion forum or the Padlet tool as a method of connection and collaboration.
The course also provides specific resources for building communication skills. Module 4 explores both written and interpersonal communication, and provides the learner with tips for effective written communication, a brief quiz to test communication skills, and links to external website resources. These resources are beneficial for learners who are unfamiliar or new to academic writing, or for those looking to bolster their active listening skills. Learners are also introduced to the importance of a personal learning network (PLN), and its multi-faceted approach of using social media to connect current social contents and make new connections online. The instructors encourage learners several times throughout the course to create a Twitter profile in order to connect and collaborate with other people in their respective fields, and to follow the course Twitter account and use the course hashtag to connect with past and current learners who are part of this online learning community.
As this was a MOOC, there were limited ways for learners to communicate directly with the instructor. Learners could post in the discussion forum and message the instructor(s), but there were no office hours, email, or phone number, removing an opportunity for learners to exercise their communications skills. Although the MOOC offered a live, synchronous session, the session was simply a lecture with accompanying slides, and did not offer opportunities for learners to communicate with the instructor or their peers. The MOOC could have used a video-conferencing tool such as Zoom or BlueJeans to set up the synchronous meeting time to pose questions to either the entire learning community or in small group break-outs in order to encourage further peer-to-peer communication and collaboration opportunities, as well as foster relationship-building between the greater learning community.
- Strengthening your communication skills (video)
- Written communication skills (webpage)
- Blog post on how to use Twitter as an academic (blog post)
- 7 free and easy-to-use collaboration tools (blog post)