Online environments have provided new opportunities for interaction and collaboration. Emerging research demonstrates the value of the online environment for facilitating interactions among students and between students and instructors (both synchronous and asynchronous), to break down the barriers of distance and facilitate learning relationships.
Liu and Ginther (2001) cite a growing body of evidence indicating that communication processes change when students and teachers communicate using computer technology rather than in person. The lack of non-verbal cues constrains communication, hence CMC users may have difficulty in developing interpersonal impressions and relationships.
However, other research suggests that CMC is socially rich in potential cues used to form interpersonal impressions and relationships. The authors recommend verbal and nonverbal "impression management" strategies for online instructors.

Hara and Kling (2002) have studied the social processes involved in web-based distance learning programs and have summarised the potential difficulties in terms of student distress factors (frustration, anxiety and confusion). Two foci of these problems were isolated: technological problems; and poor or inadequate communications styles or strategies. The latter included:
  • Lack of prompt or clear feedback, and

  • Ambiguous instructions on the course website and in instructors' email messages.


  • Hara and Kling attribute these difficulties to the "weaker social cues found in asynchronous, text-based communications". Online communication participants have to communicate overtly to create social presence online, whereas silent students? facial expressions and body language can communicate feelings in a face-to-face class (Hara and Kling, 2002).


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