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‘That’s how I teach my students to communicate effectively online’

Effective communication is one of the most important ‘skills of the 21st century’. People often think that these skills can only be taught face-to-face. However, recent technological developments now make it possible to teach these skills online, for example using the DialogueTrainer tool for conversational scenarios. I’ve been involved in the development of this tool from the very beginning as part of two university-wide projects: Communicate I and II, from 2013 to 2019. I was one of the first to use the tool for teaching in a centralised and large-scale manner in the ‘Professional Conversations’ course within the Psychology study programme. In order to improve the effectiveness of the group conversation scenarios, I embedded the tool in the e-learning modules where students can learn to enhance their communications knowledge and competency by means of a diverse and coherent package of online work formats. In addition to online scenarios, the package includes knowledge clips, good and bad examples of conversations, assignments, questionnaires, quizzes, discussions, polls, assessment questions, etcetera. In so doing, they can learn how difficult communication can be, understand (mis)communication, obtain insight into their own communication habits, and become more effective in holding conversations themselves. This integrated, digital approach is a powerful tool for learning how to communicate, and reinforces the face-to-face education in communication skills.

The course is structured as follows: each week, the students prepare for the lab seminar by completing the e-learning modules on topics like listening, giving feedback or collecting information. They don’t have to do the work at a fixed place or time, however; they can complete the assignments at their own pace at a convenient moment, and can do so as often as they like. Each lab seminar deals with the contents of the e-learning module. Course evaluations have shown that students prefer the e-learning modules to lectures. Seminar lecturers have also noticed the difference: students come better prepared to class, which leaves more time for practice and in-depth discussion. Finally, another benefit is that I can also easily give fellow lecturers access to my own e-learning modules. That makes it easier to collaborate, and facilitates active sharing of knowledge across study programmes, faculties, and even universities. Want to find out more? Then take a look at the showcase I’ve created for the course ‘Professional Conversations’ by registering via this link (SolisID): https://lll-platform-uu.nl/enrol/signup/?l=t9233arzGyWI. If you’re interested in what DialogueTrainer has to offer for your curriculum, then visit the Educate-it site or contact Educate-it to ask for practical or didactic support.

Richta IJntema, teacher social and behaviour sciences