Edwards, J.T. (2009). Undergraduate Students’ Perceptions and Preferences of Computer‐mediated Communication with Faculty. American Communication Journal, 11(1). Retrieved November 11, 2010, from Tarleton State University in Stephenville database.
According to previously conducted studies, it has been proved that students prefer technological means, such as e-mail, to meeting their professors personally during working hours. The purpose of this study by Jennifer T. Edwards is to understand attitude of undergraduate students to communication with their professors during VOHs (Virtual office hours) using instant messaging software.
The study was conducted in a rural-town mid-sized institution in central Texas, which has slightly over 6,500 multinational students. This institution is classified as a Carnegie Master’s Large institution, where 21.3% of students are enrolled part-time, and 35.8% receive Federal Pell Grant funds. For the study, 75 undergraduate students from three sections of an introductory communication course and one section of an upper-level communication course were selected.
During the study, students were asked to fill out the questionnaire “Your Opinion of Virtual Office Hours”, with or without the IM technology. Afterwards, within two further weeks they were asked to complete the questionnaire on blackboard.com. The questionnaire included two questions: Question 1: “What other technology (via the internet) would you prefer to use to communicate with your professor?” and Question 2: “I wish that more professors would use virtual office hours (i.e. - Yahoo Instant Messenger). The data in Question 1 was analyzed using the QDA qualitative research software, while data of Question 2, using SPSS 16.0 software.
As a result, according to the responses, the majority of the students want their future professors to use VOHs to communicate with their students: 33% for “strongly agree” or “agree”, 52.9% for “neutral” and only 5.27% students selected “disagree” or “strongly disagree”.
As for the type of Communication Technology, students proposed such means as e-mail, text messages, and facebook/ myspace: 31 students preferred e-mailing; 7 students want their professors to communicate sending and receiving text messaging; 16 students chose social networking websites (blackboard and/or myspace), 3 students even proposed their professors to form a facebook group for the class; 8 students were for instant messaging (VOHs) and 7 for text messaging; and only 7 students prefer traditional ways of communication, such as face-to-face or telephone communication.
The results of the study show that nowadays the majority of students prefer their future professors to use different means of electronic communication, as 68 students prefer different internet methods to traditional way of communication (face-to-face or telephone communication). Moreover, students’ suggestions with regard to technology-based communication with their professors can be implemented even now. Even if professors feel uncomfortable about using such means with their students, they can start communicating with their family members first and later on include their students.