A new dead language: Communication skills

By: Dina Usanovic

Universities and schools across the nation have not been delivering education normally for the past year. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, schools have been mainly online until the recent spring semester, in which many classes returned to in-person services. However, these in-person classes are still not necessarily the norm, as they are socially distanced and require masks. 

While remote classes have solved the impact of the pandemic (and welcomed by many tired college students who got a break from actually going to class), they definitely have their consequences. Apart from the obvious communication issues between students and professors, there is a lack of social interaction in remote classes. Less social interaction may be welcomed by some, but for many, it is a difficult transition. 

Limited social interaction affects everyone by limiting communication skills. Without needing to communicate face-to-face, or even vocally, students may lose certain important skills through remote learning, such as making eye contact, speaking at an acceptable volume, and effective listening skills. These skills are imperative for communication, especially in professional settings. 

The groups that are at the most risk for communication issues are young kids who are first learning to interact and college students who are about to graduate and enter the workforce. Young kids who do not get the chance to interact with other kids may have a harder time adapting to school when they do return in person because they have not successfully developed the above skills for interactions. While they will eventually develop the skills once they return to school in person and are immersed in a social environment, it may take longer for them to grasp and may, therefore, set them back. 

Ready-to-graduate college students will probably suffer because of taking a year off from interacting with people in person prior to attending job interviews, at which communication skills are pertinent. It is difficult to determine whether this suffering will be incredibly damaging or just a setback, as they have had a lifetime of building up communication skills. However, it will affect them in some manner, regardless.

While there is damage associated with online learning, it has improved some aspects of communication. Students are losing communication skills regarding interpersonal communication, but they are gaining e-mail and other online communication skills. 

Along with that, schools are exploring other methods of communication, including one-on-one Zoom calls with professors/teachers, group discussions online or over Zoom, and other online discussions, such as message boards. 

Online learning is not all bad, there are definitely benefits and alternatives to address some consequences. While online learning is not the same as in-person classes, they are not necessarily the worst option

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