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Tuesday, 8 March 2022

How To Manage Barriers Of Virtual Communication In Education Sector

Introduction.

Virtual communication is a form of communication wherein technology is used through audio or video instead of face-to-face interaction.


The team members or communicators can be in different rooms in the same location, miles apart, or even neighborhood. Virtual communication tools include Zoom, Skype, Google meet, Hangouts, Fuze, among others.


virtual communication

Virtual communication is essentially how two or more people interact when they are not in the same place. 


This is common in every office or formal setting in almost every industry as the advancement of virtual communication tools continues to necessitate remote work.



Managing Barriers Of Virtual Communication.

Effective communication is very useful to virtual teams who want to plan and accomplish a common goal, be it at the career level or educational level. 


However, virtual communication for a team or teams in education setup faces a lot of barriers, and if not well managed, the set academic goals could not be effectively achieved.


The barriers can lead to low employee (teacher) and learner morale and decreased productivity for the individual learner, teacher, and the learning institution.


The following are barriers to virtual communication in relation to online learning, including examination administration:



1)      Lack of Communication Ground Rules.

A virtual team needs some communication ground rules failure to which the e-meetings or engagements cannot be effective.


Simple but very important rules such as turn-taking, punctuality, technology guide such muting off speakers when not talking, clarity, among other related guidelines, are key to effective and constructive virtual communication.


When a participant is talking, say, during a zoom meeting, other participants are expected to keep quiet and pay attention, and if clarification is needed, it has to be sorted in an orderly manner without any form of interruption or disrespect.


Orderliness enhances co-operation and understanding among communicators, for example, between learners and instructors or between learners and fellow learners, for effective communication to achieve the set goals.



2)  Team Members Not Contributing During Virtual Team Meetings.

One of the sole purposes of virtual communication is to mobilize varied perspectives from all participants as they collaborate towards achieving a common goal.


Every participant needs to freely and frankly speak out their ideas or opinions for joint brainstorming—every point of view matters for effective co-learning and co-creation of a better way forward.


However, some participants are usually dormant during online meetings or classes. Such participants passively follow the conversation without contributing. Every participant should be encouraged to participate actively during virtual meetings.


 In some cases, only a fraction of the participants dominate the conversation at the expense of others. The team leader should not make the e-meeting a one-person show but should delegate equal opportunity for all the participants to contribute to the meeting agenda.


Turn-taking among participants should be prioritized as a guiding yardstick for effective communication both in the education and customer service industry.



3)      Unaware of Verbal And Nonverbal Cues.

Virtual communication involves the use of either audio or video, and it is critical to master various verbal and nonverbal communication techniques for effective communication and team collaboration.


Verbal cues use words, language, voice, and sentences as the means of communication. It involves the usage and choice of words by a speaker to convey a particular message. 


A speaker can use words selectively and tactically to emphasize a given topic, proposal, or agenda.


On the other hand, nonverbal cues involve the use of facial expressions, body language, pauses, and tone to convey a particular message. 


That is, other than the actual words a speaker speaks out, how they present themselves, the way they react, looks, and moves can tell another participant whether the speaker is serious, annoyed, competent, or strict.


Most learners are not aware of these verbal and nonverbal cues and usually mess up or miss out a lot during virtual communication sessions. 


When communicating virtually, learners need to keep in mind some basic verbal and nonverbal cues such as being audible, speaking clearly, maintaining eye contact, and using appropriate gestures and other forms of body language.


4)      Lack Of Meeting Agenda Or Structure For The Virtual Communication Meeting.

Effective virtual communication becomes disorganized or lacks focus when the e-meeting or call has no pre-organized agenda and meeting structure to ensure the meeting is more collaborative for maximum productivity.


When the meeting agenda is not well-organized and communicated in advance, participants can appear clueless and unable to constructively contribute their ideas during the meeting. 


Lack of a well-defined meeting structure can also disorganize the meeting as it leads to a lack of personal preparedness and group turn-taking.


The team participants need to have the meeting agenda before the meeting. Also, they need to have a meeting structure to help them get prepared for meaningful contributions. 


This will enable learners to research in advance and have their thoughts communicated during the meeting with a lot of clarity, preciseness, and objectivity. 


Even if it is not a scheduled meeting, it is advisable to send the agenda items some minutes to the meeting or have a five or ten-minute brief prior to the meeting.



Conclusion.

Virtual communication has become an integral part of a formal engagement, which cannot be wished away. 


The education ecosystem is incomplete without it as current learning takes place virtually, partially, or wholly. 


The above barriers, when well-managed, can increase the productivity of the education system in multifold.


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