The Rapid Elearning Blog

overview of the communication process

Effective e-learning is more than putting together screens of information and presenting them to learners. Instead it’s a process of curating content and then communicating it in a way that the learner understands and ultimately can apply.

The challenge sometimes rests in how the content is communicated, which then determines the level of understanding for proper application.

In a previous post, we did a quick overview of some of the challenges with communication and how to overcome them. Today, I’d like to take a quick look at the basic communication process and how that impacts what we do with our online course design.

Overview of the Communication Process

communication process basics

Here is the basic communication process.

  • Generally, there’s a message and this has to go from one person to the other.
  • The first person encodes the message into something that the other person can receive.
  • The message is transmitted via some medium.
  • The message is received and decoded.
  • And the process flips and repeats itself between encoding, transmission, and decoding.

Hopefully what’s communicated is clear. If not, the process of going back and forth establishes clarity.

How Does the Communication Process Impact E-Learning

In a facilitated learning environment, the facilitator presents content. The learner receives it. If there’s some dissonance between the encoding and decoding, it’s easy enough to reconcile it.

Generally the facilitator can tell if there’s some confusion and the learner has plenty of opportunity to ask for clarification when things aren’t understood. There’s a lot of give and take.

This becomes a problem with most e-learning courses since they tend to be pushed out to the learner, usually with no opportunity to seek clarification. Because of this, it’s important to consider the content and how to assess the learner’s understanding through the course so that you can provide the appropriate feedback.

basic communication process

This is the point where many courses fail. Many organizations build courses heavy on information delivery and light on true assessment. And I don’t mean end-of-course quiz assessments. I mean continual assessment throughout the course to gauge the learner’s understanding of the content and with the right type of feedback.

Opportunities to Enhance the Communication Process for E-Learning

Here are a few quick thoughts on how to enhance the communication of the content and make up for places where there’s no back and forth.

  • Content needs to be meaningful. Review the course content and structure it so it makes sense to the learner. This can happen with clear objectives and placing the content in a relevant, real-world context.
  • Create meaningful activities. Step away from just content delivery and focus on meaningful and relevant learning activities. I like a backwards design approach. What does the learner need to do? Then design activities for them to prove they can do it. They may need to practice first; so design practice activities where you can assess their understanding and provide feedback. And then somewhere in that process, you construct the right content. This is better than a massive information dump.
  • Account for barriers to effective communication and learning. Determine what obstacles exist between delivering and receiving the content. Many courses are text heavy and miss the opportunity to provide more memorable experiences with good visual support. And as noted above, many courses also lack relevance to the learner. This is often the case with compliance training, which drives a lot of e-learning. Find ways to engage them with meaningful activities where they get to practice using the content and acquire the right feedback.

E-learning often has the challenge of mostly one-way communication, so it’s important to build the right mechanisms in the course to ensure the learner is learning and has ample opportunity for feedback.

What are some things you do?


Free E-Learning Resources

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2 responses to “How the Communication Process Impacts E-Learning”

March 12th, 2020

Hi Tom, I love your suggestions for ways to communicate messages clearly to learners by giving them meaningful activities. Some things I do to enhance the communication process in e-learning are to 1) relate the content back to information learners already know, 2) provide practice activities in a variety of different real-world contexts, and 3) provide schemata to help learners organize their thinking around topics.

Relating the content to information and skills with which learners are already familiar helps learners link what they are learning to existing knowledge, which helps move information to learners’ long-term memories. This helps them to recall how to do things back on the job.

Giving learners a variety of practice opportunities with feedback helps them apply the information to the different contexts they will encounter in the real world. It also helps them elaborate the information to multiple situations. This helps learners commit the new skills to their long-term memories because they mentally tie different pieces of information together.

Lastly, providing schemata, or organizational tools, such as a step-by-step processes to organize new information, helps learners store information in a meaningful way so they can retrieve it when they need to use it.

All of these things help communicate content in ways that make it more meaningful to the learner.

Thank you for your post,

March 16th, 2020

@Mary: good stuff and feedback