A few years ago an airline commercial showed a businessman flying to a far-off meeting. In the voiceover he explains that although the customer was in Brazil, anything truly important needs to be discussed face-to-face. While the limitations of online teaching preclude on-site meetings with students, the fact remains that seeing a face adds essential elements to a message that cannot be conveyed by email or phone. Our faces humanize us, making others more receptive to our messages. Plus, most of what is communicated comes via nonverbal cues such as facial expressions. Without these cues, messages can be misinterpreted. The humanizing element is especially important when the discussion is on a difficult subject, such as poor performance on an assignment. Text by its very nature tends to be interpreted more sharply than intended, and as a result can de-motivate students, causing them to turn off the feedback. A smiling face can reassure students that though they have work to do, all is not lost and they are capable of making the necessary improvements. Every online instructor should be using Skype frequently to contact students. It’s a good practice to always recommend a meeting by Skype when there is a problem or question. A Skype session can accomplish far more than either an email or a phone call can, thus saving faculty time in the long run having to address the same problem over and over.
There are many ways for faculty to use Skype. These include: