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Webucator's Free Virtual Communications for Managers Tutorial

Lesson: Types of Media

Welcome to our free Virtual Communications for Managers tutorial. This tutorial is based on Webucator's Virtual Communications for Managers course.

In virtual communications, media is that which carries a message from one person to another. It may include the software application, the method of transmission, and/or the equipment. This lesson examines how different types of media relate to communication concepts.

Lesson Goals

  • Learn about the fundamentals of media.
  • Learn to relate the types of communication to:
    1. Text.
    2. Audio.
    3. Graphics and imagery.
    4. Haptics.
  • Learn about the value of combining media.

The Fundamentals of Media

In the past, the media used for communication was limited.

  1. Early history included oral communications.
  2. Later, different forms of written communications were used.

With the advent of technology, methods of communicating at a distance have increased tremendously. Many virtual communication systems now combine different types of media.

In this lesson, we will learn about each type of media and how they can be integrated to enhance communication.

Media and Senses

Media is the plural of medium. A medium is a means of communication. In virtual communication, media are the methods used to deliver messages from one person to another person through the senses. The following are relationships between senses and media:

  1. Sight: Text-based media, graphics, and imagery.
  2. Sound: Audio-based media.
  3. Touch: Haptics.

We will look at these in more detail in this lesson.

Two other senses include taste and smell. Because taste is a personal, internal sense, it is rarely used for communication between people. However, it can be; for example, a poison may be made to taste foul to communicate that it is not good for consumption.

Communicating through smell is used on occasion, though it certainly is not encountered as often as other sense-based communications. These are some common applications:

  1. The foul odor added to natural gas communicates a dangerous situation.
  2. Scratch and sniff labels inform customers about a product's attribute.
  3. Vanilla-scented air fresheners communicate a homey, warm feeling.

So we can see that subtle communication can take place in surprising ways using sensual appeal.

The Fundamentals of Media

Duration: 5 to 7 minutes.

Respond to the following questions about media.

  1. Communication media deliver messages through the _____________.
  2. Which of the following is a haptic medium?
    1. An email.
    2. A scratch and sniff label.
    3. An electronic vibration.
    4. Music.


  1. Communication mediums deliver messages through the senses.
  2. C. An electronic vibration.

The Fundamentals of Media - Personal Application

Duration: 10 to 15 minutes.

Perform the following activity relating to Media and communication:

  1. Recall a commercial or advertisement you recently viewed.
    1. As you think about the senses that are being used, write down how they are being used to influence your decisions.
  2. Think about a period of time when you were with other people. This could be at work, shopping, or at leisure.
    1. What did you see, smell, hear, and physically feel?
    2. Write down or discuss what messages were received by your senses?

Communication and Media

There are four types of media that correlate to different methods of communicating. The media and communication methods are as follows:

  1. Text-based media and words.
  2. Audio-based media and voice.
  3. Imagery and sight.
  4. Haptics and touch.

Text-based Media

Text-based media are any media that supports written communication composed of any of the following:

  1. Letters.
  2. Words.
  3. Numbers.
  4. Symbols.

There are many communication systems that are text-based. Some are synchronous, assuming both parties are interacting with each other at the same time. These include:

  1. Instant messaging.
  2. Chat.

Other systems are asynchronous and assume the communicating parties are not interacting at the same time, so responses are not expected immediately. Asynchronous text-based communication includes:

  1. Discussion forums.
  2. Social networking.
  3. Faxes.
  4. Email.
  5. Traditional "snail" mail.
  6. Blogs.

It is feasible for a method of written communication to be either synchronous or asynchronous, depending on whether or not the two parties are active in the discussion at the same time. An example of this is texting.

Audio-based Media

Audio-based media includes anything that incorporates sound to deliver the message. Audio-based media began when the first recordings were made on wax rolls and played over a phonograph. As technology improved, applications expanded.

Audio-based media emulate the natural voice, and the voice is a primary form of communication in face-to-face interactions. People are naturally comfortable with audio communications.

As with text-based media, audio-based media can also be separated into synchronous and asynchronous communication. Examples of synchronous audio include:

  1. Land line telephones.
  2. Cell phone.
  3. Internet (VOIP) phones.
  4. Short-wave radio.
  5. Audio conferencing.
  6. Transportation dispatching.

These are examples of asynchronous audio-based communication systems:

  1. Audio podcasts.
  2. Radio broadcasts.
  3. Internet radio.
  4. Voicemail.

Again, these are examples of the media's primary use. Many audio-based media may be used either synchronously or asynchronously, for example:

  1. A recorded call from a doctor or advertiser may be delivered over the phone.
  2. A bus dispatcher may communicate with a driver, or simply announce information.

Graphics and Imagery

The use of visual media in communication is powerful. Many people process visual information more quickly than textual information or audible information.

The expression "A picture is worth a thousand words" has much truth to it. Visual imagery is used to enhance communication when words alone are too cumbersome to explain concepts that are either:

  1. Simple.
  2. Complex.

Simple images are often used to communicate simple concepts that would require many words to communicate. These images may be used alone or in combination with other media, and include:

  1. Road signs.
  2. Warning signs.
  3. Computer icons.
  4. International symbols.
  5. Logos.

Images may also be used to communicate more complex concepts that are difficult to explain with words alone. These images are often combined with words, either in audible form or text form. The following are examples of complex concepts that are communicated through images:

  1. Architectural designs.
  2. Flowcharts.
  3. Art.
  4. Electrical or mechanical diagrams.
  5. Product assembly instructions.

Technology has opened the door to animated visuals as well. In colleges and universities, educational simulations are commonly used in online science classes.

Images are often used in published media, including online media, such as:

  1. Newspapers.
  2. Magazines.
  3. Books.
  4. Handouts.
  5. Promotional material.

Common image types that are used in these publications are:

  1. Graphs.
  2. Diagrams.
  3. Pictures.

More complex images, graphics, and animated images are often combined with audio-based media because the combination of the two can closely simulate face-to-face communication. Examples of these combined media include:

  1. Movies.
  2. Television.
  3. Slide show presentations with voiceover.
  4. Video podcasts.
  5. Video conferencing.
  6. Webcasts.


Haptics are a very interesting communication media. Haptics relate to the tactile, or the sense of touch. Haptic communication began as a way to replace communication through the usual senses of sight and sound.

  1. Braille has been in use since the 1800s for sight-impaired individuals.
  2. Communicating through touch is common for those who are both hearing and sight impaired.

Technology has increased the use of haptics in communication; primarily in the form of vibration. Beginning with computer gaming, haptics have been used in:

  1. Joysticks.
  2. Flight simulator chairs.
  3. Braille displays for the visually impaired.
  4. Pagers.
  5. Mobile device vibrators.

Mobile device vibrators, like those used in wireless phones, provide a way to receive information privately about incoming phone calls, timers, alarms, and more.

Another example of haptic communication is the paging device used at some restaurants. These devices are given to the customers when they check in. When a table is ready for a customer, the device vibrates.

Simple vibrating tactical signals can communicate a number of different messages by varying:

  1. The length of the pulse.
  2. The intensity of the pulse.
  3. The number of pulses.

Haptic media are not commonly used in day-to-day interpersonal communications, but as we look to the future, tactile tools are likely to become more accessible for day-to-day virtual communications.

Communication and Media

Duration: 15 to 20 minutes.

Respond to the following questions about communications and media.

  1. True or False:
    1. Immediate answers will be received through email.
    2. Texting is the best way to communicate because it can be both synchronous and asynchronous.
    3. Written language is composed of letters, numbers, and symbols.
    4. Written communication is more private than other communication methods.
    5. Immediate answers can be received through email.
    6. Discussion forums are not a good way to communicate.
  2. Which of the following is/are normally synchronous?
    1. Audio podcasts.
    2. Radio broadcasts.
    3. Internet (VOIP) phones.
    4. Internet radio.
    5. Voicemail.
  3. Which of the following are reasons people are comfortable with virtual audio communications?
    1. It is easy to get instructions on how to use it.
    2. It emulates the natural voice.
    3. It has been around for a long time.
    4. The voice is a primary form of communication in face-to-face interactions.
    5. It is easier to use than text-based communications.
  4. Imagery is often used:
    1. In combination with other media.
    2. To communicate with sight impaired individuals.
    3. To explain complex processes.
    4. In publications.
  5. Imagery may be used to help communicate:
    1. Complex concepts.
    2. Warnings.
    3. Instructions.
    4. Simple concepts.
    5. All of the above.
    6. None of the above.
  6. Fill in the blanks with the correct words:
    1. Haptics are a form of communication that uses the sense of ______________.
    2. Mobile devices use Haptics in the form of _________________ for private communication.
    3. Vibrations may communicate many things, depending on the _____________, _______________, and ___________________ of the pulses.
    4. Haptics are beneficial for communication with ____________ impaired people.


  1. True or False:
    1. False
    2. False
    3. True
    4. False
    5. True
    6. False
  2. C.
  3. B. and D.
  4. A, C, and D.
  5. E.
    1. Haptics are a form of communication that uses the sense of touch.
    2. Mobile devices use haptics in the form of vibrations for private communication.
    3. Vibrations may communicate many things, depending on the length, intensity, and number of the pulses.
    4. Haptics are beneficial for communication with visually impaired people.

Combined Media

As we learned in the first lesson, face-to-face communication is normally composed of three different forms of communication:

  1. Words.
  2. Voice.
  3. Body language.

Words and voice are received by one sense, hearing. Most face-to-face communication uses two senses, sight and hearing. Other senses, like touch, may be combined to enhance the message or emphasize concepts.

In the same way, mediated communication works best when it combines different types of media, called "multimedia." Appealing to multiple senses is beneficial because:

  1. Each person receives sensory information differently, so the use of multimedia makes the message more accessible to a larger audience.
  2. The message is strengthened through redundancy.
  3. If one form of media experiences interference, the other form may carry the missing information.

Multimedia may be any combination of media types. The most commonly used combinations are:

  1. Text and visuals.
  2. Spoken words and visuals.
  3. Imagery and sound.

Visual and word-based (audio or text) communications are very powerful in virtual communications because they use the most dominant communication senses of sight and sound, and they are easily emulated through technology. Notice how many of the following examples of multimedia systems use combined visual and word-based media:

Synchronous systems:

  1. Web conferencing - imagery and sound.
  2. Chats that allow embedded images or attachments - imagery and text.
  3. Video conferencing - imagery and sound.
  4. Closed circuit television - imagery and sound.
  5. Texting - images and text.

Asynchronous systems:

  1. Flight and driving simulations - imagery, sound, and haptics.
  2. Music videos. - imagery and sound.
  3. Podcasts - imagery and sound.
  4. Social networking - imagery and text.
  5. Television and movies - imagery and sound.
  6. Books with images - imagery and text.
  7. Pop-up messages and alarms - text, sound, and possibly haptics.
  8. Embedded images or videos in forums or on blog sites - imagery and text.

Combined Media

Duration: 3 to 5 minutes.

Answer the following question about combined media:

  1. Which of the following is/are false?
    1. Visual media are powerful in virtual communications because they use sight, which is a dominant sense.
    2. Podcasts use haptics.
    3. Word-based communication is easily emulated through technology.
    4. Redundancy strengthens communication.
    5. Multimedia appeals to multiple senses.


  1. B. Podcasts use haptics.

Combined Media - Personal Application

Duration: 10 to 15 minutes.
  1. Imagine a situation in which you are meeting in an office with three members of your staff. You wish to describe a new product the staff members have never seen before.
    1. In what ways can you describe the product?
    2. How many forms of communication might you use?
    3. What would be the benefit of using multiple communication methods?
  2. Now imagine the same situation, but you and the staff members are all at different locations, communicating virtually.
    1. In what ways can you describe the product?
    2. How many forms of communication might you use?
    3. What would be the benefit of using multiple virtual communication methods?