Benefits of Immediacy in Communication for First-Year Undergraduate Students 

A brief discussion with colleagues on the Malaysian primary and secondary education system indicates that transitioning students could be passive and may need additional guidance. Entering a university’s education system that welcomes pro-activeness and resourcefulness, these students from the local education system may find the academic transition from school to university to be daunting and challenging; some might appear lost and unsure of how to approach their lecturers.

An aim to establish a safe space of learning through immediacy in communication would benefit the weak, unmotivated, or timid students to articulate their understanding or to express their learning needs or difficulties with some level of clarity and, also to create an avenue for the outspoken students to further express their thoughts and understanding. This aim would indirectly help the transitioning students to have a good head start in their tertiary education and to become more confident and motivated learners with effective communication skills.

The following explains the teaching practices specifically on immediacy and explores ways in which immediacy can be applied for improvement in the areas of student cognition, motivation, and performance.

Teaching and Learning Style

According to research done by Pather et al. (2017), a collaborative relationship in the form of a small number of students studying in a group with a variety of teaching and learning styles has been suggested to increase first-year students’ engagement with their lecturers.

With immediacy in mind, for example, one can leverage the break-out group feature in ELEARN for lab and tutorial classes and visit each group to offer help on the current teaching topic and to offer a piece of brief advice on their current concerns, which may be unrelated, such as assignments. A small group automatically provides psychological comfort without the negative feelings of embarrassment during the discussion which could lead to greater focus and motivation.

Communication Style

A friendly and enthusiastic tone, in addition to indicating availability for help or communication, would also lead to a greater measure of immediacy. In conveying positive regard for students, consistent use of inclusive language such as “we” or “us” would create warmth in communication. A short side note when replying to a student’s email by asking the student how he/she is coping with the subject, specifically the topic of the week, would convey to the students feel that they are being cared for, leading to greater motivation to study.

Safe Space

The notion of a safe space may evoke different perspectives from lecturers and students as a safe space for one may not necessarily be one for another. Yet, it has enormous potential to motivate students to perform better in their studies. For instance, when students feel comfortable and safe in a class with fellow students and their lecturers, these students tend to form meaningful relationships and overcome many of the challenges they encounter during their course of studies. This confirms the research done by Holley and Steiner (2005) that safe spaces enhance academic skill development by increasing self-awareness, expanding perspectives, and facilitating communication skills.

As pointed out by Yu and Liu (2009), the option to allow students to use anonymity in online learning spaces to pose questions or to interact with their peers can help establish psychological comfort without any negative feelings of embarrassment or discomfort. Hence, in the context of first-year transitioning students, who need ample scaffolding, a safe space should be provided by enabling the anonymous option in ELEARN for forum discussion.

In conclusion, immediacy in communication brings great benefits to teaching and learning for first-year students.


Dr Ling Mee Hong
School of Engineering and Technology