Succeed with learning
Succeed with learning

This free course is available to start right now. Review the full course description and key learning outcomes and create an account and enrol if you want a free statement of participation.

Free course

Succeed with learning

4.1 Online communication skills

The internet offers a wealth of opportunities for communication that most of us use regularly these days. By choosing this course, you are probably aware that it can be a good learning medium too.

The web can be used for individual learning – like this course – or learning with others. Email is a regular part of online learning, course materials can be accessed online and there are often online communities and tutor groups to enable more interaction between students and their tutors.

There are two main ways of communicating online, and these are called synchronous and asynchronous. (Putting an ‘a’ in front of a word sometimes creates an opposite in English. The ‘a’ is known as a prefix. Other examples are ‘typical’ and ‘atypical’, and ‘moral and ‘amoral’.) In this case, the two words can be defined as follows:

  • Synchronous communication means taking place in ‘real time’; for example, via instant messaging or a ‘chat’ facility.
  • Asynchronous communication takes place when participants communicate in their own time; for example, by responding to messages that have been posted in an online forum.

If you take part in social networks, you will recognise that these terms could be applied to those too.

Whether you are using the internet for study or personally, it is important to remember you are communicating with real people. Special care must therefore be taken to avoid misunderstandings.


For further information, take a look at our frequently asked questions which may give you the support you need.

Have a question?
Free Courses

OpenLearn has over 800 free courses across all our subjects designed by our academic experts. From 1 to 100 hours, introductory to advanced, you can start learning at any time and all for free.