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When You Can’t Hear Me Now: Nonverbal Communication in Distance Learning

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Enhancing Instructional Effectiveness in Civil Engineering: Case Studies

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1685.1 - 22.1685.15



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Paper Authors


Morgan Reese U.S. Military Academy

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Major Morgan Reese is an instructor in the Department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering at the United States Military Academy, West Point, NY. She received her BS from the United States Military Academy; MS in Engineering Management from the Missouri University of Science and Technology - Rolla; and ME in Civil Engineering from the University of Florida - Gainesville. She is a registered Professional Engineer in Missouri. Her research interests include measuring groundwater contaminant flux, and engineering education.

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Joseph P. Hanus U.S. Military Academy

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Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Hanus is the Mechanics Group Director in the Civil Engineering Department at the United States Military Academy, West Point, NY. He received his B.S. from the University of Wisconsin, Platteville; M.S. from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities; and Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He is an active member of ASEE and is a registered Professional Engineer in Wisconsin. His research interests include fiber reinforced polymer materials, accelerated bridge construction, and engineering education.

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Ledlie Klosky U.S. Military Academy, West Point

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J. Ledlie Klosky, P.E., is an associate professor of civil engineering in the Department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering at West Point and recipient of ASEE’s 2010 National Outstanding Teaching Medal. Dr. Klosky writes regularly about engineering education, covering topics ranging from classroom techniques to curricular reform. Much of this work is focused on the use of internet communications and social networks for educational purposes.

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When You Can’t Hear Me Now ‐ Nonverbal Communication in Distance Learning  Authors     Globalization, a strong demand for continuing education and cost pressure on traditional university learning models are all contributing to the growth of distance learning across many educational programs, to include civil engineering.  Fundamentally, distance learning encompasses students participating in a class without being physically present; this includes not only remote campuses, where the communication infrastructure is likely to be robust, but also students studying on exchange programs either domestically or abroad.   Specifically at the XX‐XX‐XX‐XX at XX‐XX, the study abroad program is trending towards a more robust program to send our students abroad.   In the past five academic semesters, we have sent 370 students to 35 universities around the globe.  As the program continues in its development, its popularity among the students continues to grow.  Given the growth in demand for this program at XX‐XX and elsewhere, the Department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering at XX‐XX has been carefully examining how to best deliver quality instruction to these students.     The fundamental teaching model in our Department is well‐expressed in the Excellence in Civil Engineering Education (ExCEEd) program, sponsored by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).  The model includes six main elements for developing an effective learning environment:  structured organization, engaging presentation, enthusiasm, positive rapport with students, frequent assessment of student learning, and appropriate use of technology.  The primary question associated with distance learning is, “Can the ExCEEd teaching model work when the student isn’t physically present?”   The author’s primary interest in this paper is to look closely at non‐verbal communication as it relates to the ExCEEd teaching model and distance learning.  The authors are most interested in non‐verbal communication because it is related to three of the six main elements in ExCEEd teaching model:  engaging presentation, enthusiasm, and positive rapport with students.  Additionally, the nature of distance learning will necessitate and evaluation of how a fourth element, the appropriate use of technology, is applied to various methods of teaching a distance learning course.  Further, non‐verbal communication, as represented by facial expressions and vocal intonation, can be 93% of the teacher’s effectiveness in delivering a message.  Given these circumstances, it is important to assess the impact of various distance learning environments on a teacher’s ability to express non‐verbal content such that the ExCEEd teaching model is still effective.   A case study approach will be used to illustrate and examine challenges in this area and recommendations will be presented rely on the body of knowledge of non‐verbal communications, the ExCEEd teaching model, and the realities of distance learning. 

Reese, M., & Hanus, J. P., & Klosky, L. (2011, June), When You Can’t Hear Me Now: Nonverbal Communication in Distance Learning Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18388

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