Communication skills for online students: An evaluation of a web site
Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences
During the year 2000 two instructional designers combined their efforts and skills to create a website which gives students and educators a way to find out about and practise online communication skills, specifically email, bulletin boards, online forms and online chat. With the growth of online courses, information databases and Internet based administration, online communication is more important than ever before. A person's ability to communicate online often influences their ability to succeed in business, academia and employment. The principles of online instructional design upon which the "Communication Skills for Online Students" website was based aim to support and promote a constructivist learning environment. Specific attention was given to situated cognition in that the examples upon which the site is built are truly authentic, taken from real life situations. Furthermore, the activities integrated throughout the site guide students through and immerse them in authentic online contexts such as public bulletin boards, synchronous chat rooms and active online forms. The website's design purposely incorporated a variety of evaluative tools. Online forms were provided for users to submit both quantitative and qualitative evaluation data. Incidental and contextual links were provided to direct users to these evaluation tools throughout the site. Furthermore, one of the learning activities within the site requires users to contact the authors with comments and questions about how they were able to use this online resource. This website has been in operation since September 2000 and a range of data has been collected from three main groups of users: the general public, university students and university lecturers. The data has been analysed and the website has been evaluated by using several well known models of multimedia and web evaluation. This paper examines the overall outcomes of the use of this website in terms of its initial objectives. It presents the methods used to collect and analyse the evaluation data gained from users of the site and identifies specific areas in which the site has been and can be improved in the future as a direct result of user feedback.