Communication Apprehension in Online Public Speaking Courses Versus Face-to-Face: A Comparative Study

Concurrent Session 2

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

We hope to discover best practices for teaching public speaking online. We will compare the communication apprehension rates and the withdrawal and failure rates for both class formats. With this discovery session we hope to gain insights from our peers in the field of online learning. 


Kendra Mann is an Assistant Lecturer of Communication Studies. In addition to teaching Exploration of Communication Studies, Senior Seminar in Communication Studies, and Leadership Communication online, she assists students with academic planning and serves as a supportive mentor to her advisees. Her research interests are in the area of Instructional Communication, specifically focusing on immediacy building in an online learning environment. As the Communication Club advisor, she works with students to create opportunities for professional development and community engagement for COMM majors. In her role as Wellness Ambassador, she promotes BSU WorkingWell programs and assembles department walking teams for some friendly, healthy competition among her colleagues. In her leisure time she enjoys painting, applying character makeup, and binge-watching fantasy dramas.

Extended Abstract

The popularity of online courses is growing due to flexibility and economical benefits (Carr, 2000; Meyer, 2003). However, not everyone believes public speaking can be taught effectively online, and some believe that online courses may be missing important variables to help students succeed (Bejerono, 2008). With the current debate surrounding the online format for public speaking courses, we decided to extend the research on the various modes of instruction. There is a need to discover the best practices for teaching public speaking online to silence the naysayers and bring legitimacy to this mode of instruction grounded in research. We hope to extend the body of research to examine exclusively online courses different from Clark & Jones’s (2001) study comparing traditional courses to a blended course. Hanson & Teven (2004) determined that students with higher communication apprehension elect to take public speaking online. We will further this research by discovering the withdrawal and failure rate of students scoring high in communication apprehension in each format of the course.

As instructors of public speaking in online and face-to-face classrooms, we are interested in improving the experience for our students. We are specifically interested in discovering whether communication apprehension is one of the main factors influencing the format students decide to take. By comparing the pre and post communication apprehension scores to determine if the online learners are overcoming their communication apprehension at the same rate as their on-campus counterparts using Richmond and McCroskey’s (1997) Personal Report of Communication or the PRCA-24.

Our current research design consists of a quantitative pilot study examining online public speaking learners and on-campus public speaking students’ learning effectiveness and communication apprehension differences utilizing the PRCA-24 measure and a self-report survey. We hope this research will lead to a larger study to determine new teaching methods to enhance the public speaking online learning experience.

This discovery session presentation will help us solidify our pilot study design by gaining insights from our peers while also sharing our interests to spark new research ideas in the field of online learning. It is our hope that this research idea can inspire our peers who may have similar research interests.



Bejerano, A. R. (2008). The genesis and evolution of online degree programs: Who are they for and what have we lost along the way?. Communication Education, 57(3), 408-414. doi:10.1080/03634520801993697.

Carr, S. (2000). Even public speaking can be taught online. Chronicle Of Higher Education, 46(29), A46.

Clark, R. A., & Jones, D. (2001). A comparison of traditional and online formats in a public speaking course. Communication Education, 50(2), 109.

Hanson, T. L., & Teven, J. J. (2004). Lessons learned from teaching public speaking online. Online Classroom, 1-8.

Meyer, K. (2003). Face to face versus threaded discussions: The role of time and higher-order thinking. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 7(3), 55-65. Retrieved from:

Richmond, V. P. and McCroskey, J. M. (1997). Communication: Apprehension, avoidance, and effectiveness (5th ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.