Angie Anderson
SPEE 633
Professional Communication
Dr. Daniel Cronn-Mills
Spring 2009

Topic 2 Abstract 2: Communication, Technology & Culture
Waldeck, J. H., Kearney, P., & Plax, T. G. (2001, Feb.). Teacher e-mail message strategies and
students’ willingness to communicate online. Journal of Applied Communication Research,
29, 54-70.

E-mail is a convenient, inexpensive, efficient, and frequently used channel of communication in the workplace. In particular, it is widely used in educational settings to supplement instructor office hours, to make the instructor more accessible, for students to receive clarification on questions, and in some cases to advance the instructor/student relationship appropriately. Waldeck, Kearney, and Plax (2001) examine student evaluations of the use of e-mail and the influence of email on the student/instructor relationship. The authors posed two research questions and five hypotheses. ECC stands for extra class communication by e-mail.
RQ1: What are the reasons students report for using e-mail as a medium for ECC? (p. 57)
RQ2: Do sex and/or ethnicity influence student Internet use? (p. 60)
H1: E-mail message strategies that simulate immediacy behaviors are associated with
greater student willingness to engage in mediated ECC than strategies that do not. (p. 59)

H2: Students’ evaluations of the use of e-mail for general purposes are positively related
to their evaluations of using e-mail to correspond with their instructors. (p. 59)

H3: Frequency of students’ e-mail use for any purpose is positively related to students’ evaluations of both e-mail use overall and e-mail use with instructors. (p. 60)
H4: Frequency of student e-mail use with teachers is positively related to students’ evaluations of e-mail use with instructors. (p. 60)
H5: Students report using e-mail more frequently to contact other students about coursework than they do their teachers. (p. 60)
The researchers utilized four multi-item survey instruments. Each instrument measured one of the following factors: reasons students use e-mail to contact their instructors, students’ evaluation of using e-mail to communicate with instructors, student’s evaluation of the use of e-mail for any general purpose, and the willingness for students to correspond with instructors who use immediacy strategies (use of personalized messages, emoticons, brevity, and correct spelling and grammar) in their e-mail messages. Participants were gathered from introductory communication courses at two large West Coast public universities. There were 101 men and 188 women undergraduate students. Among them 68 percent were White, 15 percent were Asian American, 9 percent were Latino, 2 percent were African American, less than 1 percent were Native American, and the remaining sample did not indicate a specific race. The researchers employed simple correlation analyses to analyze the data for significant differences or lack thereof.
Research question one’s results indicated students used e-mail the most to ask their teachers questions about procedures or assignments, then for efficiency reasons, and the least often for personal or social reasons. The researchers believed it was positive that students showed some use of e-mail to create a relationship with the instructor. However, the fact e-mail is used the least for personal connections could show students are not comfortable initiating self-disclosure at all and/or by e-mail. Future research should be done to examine the effectiveness of instructors and students trying to foster a professional relationship with the instructor by e-mail. Some instructors send an individualized e-mail to each student at the beginning of the semester to welcome students. The findings to research question one may be the most important to the study as policies and procedures may be needed for instructors to guide how e-mail can be used for the course.
Results to hypothesis one’s testing indicated students “report a willingness to communicate with their teachers online when teachers employ verbal and nonverbal strategies that stimulate perceptions of greater immediacy or psychological closeness” (Waldek et. al., 2001, p. 64). Further study could be done on instructors who utilize these immediacy behaviors in e-mail to reveal specific message strategies, so other instructors could use them to create more favorable relationships with their students through e-mail.
Hypothesis two’s testing found students who positively viewed the use of e-mail overall, also positively viewed the use of e-mail with instructors. Similarly hypothesis three’s prediction that students who frequently used e-mail for all purposes also positively viewed e-mail usage overall, was supported by the results. On the contrary, testing of hypothesis four denoted a negative correlation in that the more students used e-mail with their instructor the more negative the viewpoint they had of the use of e-mail with their instructor. Therefore, instructors will want to use discretion when deciding which messages to send by e-mail. Otherwise, students may become overloaded and block out the messages entirely (e.g. similar to spam).
Finally, hypothesis five was supported in that “students rely on e-mail to communicate about coursework with their peers (M=5.26) more often than they do their teachers (M=4.2)” (Waldeck et. al., 2001). As a result, instructors may want to encourage their students to come to them for course clarification issues, so the students will not be accidently misinformed by their peers.
The authors suspected a digital divide existed among race and gender (R2). The results indicated no significant difference among either race or gender. Had the research been done with the general public, rather than at large universities, results may have differed. A more recent study could be conducted to evaluate the existence of a digital divide within race, gender or regional differences. In addition, future research should be done to examine any changes in e-mail use between student and instructor since 2001. In the meantime, instructors can survey the class at the beginning of the course to disclose their students’ skill level with and access to technology.