An analysis of nonverbal communication in an online chat group.

Author: Gajadhar, J.; Green, J. S.

Date: 2003

Type: Working or discussion paper

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Open Polytechnic


In face-to-face communication, meaning is carried by blending two components: the verbal (with words) and the nonverbal (without words). Nonverbal communication adds nuance or richness of meaning that cannot be communicated by verbal elements alone. Unfortunately, nonverbal elements are generally absent in online discourse. This paper argues that, given time and experience, some of the same richness of face-to-face communication can occur in a virtual text-based medium. This paper describes the results of research on the various methods students in an online chat group employ to overcome the absence of nonverbal elements. The paper reviews academic literature on online interactions, examines the various techniques students new to an online environment use, and discusses the implications of the findings for online educators for group building and student support. Transcripts of the postings of students in an online chat group at the Open Polytechnic of New Zealand were recorded, collected, collated and analysed to determine the extent and intent of nonverbal communication used by students in their weekly chats. Our research into students' use of nonverbal communication in online chat points to the need for e-educators to develop effective teaching strategies to encourage student participation in online discussions.

Subjects: Nonverbal communication, Online communication, Journalism, Communication and Media

Marsden Codes: 400100

Copyright: TBA