E-mail most popular at MU

The results of a communication study are confirmed by MU students and faculty.
Friday, August 15, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 1:46 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

MU students and professors agree with a 2001 study conducted by an MU professor that named e-mail as the preferred method of student-professor contact.

Out of curiosity, Martha Townsend, English professor and director of the Campus Writing Program, queried her colleagues in the English department and the National Council of Writing Program Administrators, asking what method students used most often to contact them.

“I realized that I’m in my office every day, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. minimally and yet when students contact me they don’t stop by, don’t call,” she said. “I hear from them by e-mail.”

Of the 198 responses in Townsend’s study, 77 percent of professors or administrators said students most commonly use e-mail. Nine percent said students most commonly stop by their office, and only 1 percent said students most commonly contact them by telephone.

MU students agreed that e-mail is preferable for various reasons.

“I’m a (sociology) major, and they’ve got two to three professors in a room. During office hours, it’s impossible to talk to them when four meetings are going on at the same time,” MU junior Amy Engelkenjohn said.

Engelkenjohn added that e-mail is convenient because it can be checked “instantly.”

Jamie Crawford, a first-year law student, said e-mail offers better access to professors than other methods.

“I can e-mail someone in the middle of the night and have a response by the next morning,” Crawford said. “You’re not going to call a professor’s house at nine o’clock at night.”

Crawford said that e-mail is convenient for students and professors and that he “can just shoot you an e-mail and you can stop by a computer at your leisure and get back to me.”

Francisco Gomez, assistant professor in the geological sciences department, said the convenience works both ways.

“They can send the e-mail at any hour of the day and I’ll get the message when I get to my computer,” he said.

While Robert Winholtz, mechanical and aerospace engineering professor, said e-mail is “way more convenient” for students, Noah Manring, a professor in the same department, said his students don’t use e-mail that often. He said that during a typical semester in which he teaches 50 to 60 students, only about five actually e-mail him.

Manring said that given the volume and nature of information his classes deal with, e-mail is unsatisfactory.

“Oftentimes, at least in engineering, you need to sit down and go through the problem in much more detail than you can on an e-mail,” he said. “So I wouldn’t say you get a lot of information transferred via e-mail, but if you need a quick yes-no response it seems to work OK.”

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