A Digital Divide? Assessing Self-Perceived Communication Competency in an Online and Face-to-Face Basic Public Speaking Course

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Previous research has documented an inverse relationship between speaking anxiety and self-perceived communication competence (SPCC). However, a recent assessment case study of an online basic public speaking course revealed that while the course decreased students’ speaking anxiety, it failed to increase their SPCC. Prompted by this surprising discrepancy and bolstered by continuing calls for increased exploration of educational quality of online public speaking courses, the current study compared SPCC between online (n = 147) and face-to-face (F2F) (n = 544) delivery of the large, standardized, multi-section basic public speaking course at our institution. Pretest scores of students’ overall SPCC were not significantly different between learning modalities. By the end of the F2F course, students perceived significant increases in SPCC. In stark contrast, however, the online sections failed to produce significant changes in SPCC.

These findings suggest that the online basic public speaking course at our institution may not be designed in a way which promotes the development of SPCC—an important marker of our programmatic assessment. These results also draw attention to the need for further research assessing the comparison of delivery methods of the basic communication course and further discussion of best practices for online delivery of the course.

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Basic Communication Course Annual



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