Communication and Security Issues in Online Education: Student Self-Disclosure in Course Introductions

Tonya McMillion
Collin College

Carie S. Tucker King
The University of Texas at Dallas


In designing online and hybrid courses, instructors should consider structure, student motivation, and interaction (per Moore’s 1993 Theory of Transactional Distance). To motivate students to interact and to build course community, instructors may assign student introductions. However, after examining students’ introductions in a hybrid content-design course and an online design course, we noted that students self-disclosed private information in their introductions, whether to classmates or instructors. To investigate further, we analyzed the content of discussion-board and email-to-instructor introductions in a community college (first data set). Then, we analyzed discussion-board and memo-to-instructor introductions at a four-year university (second data set). We identified categories in the information that students disclosed, noting that they shared demographic, professional, academic, and personal information, some of which were identifiers that could compromise the students’ privacy. Our findings are relevant to professional communication, instruction design, pedagogy, and writing research as the study sheds light on issues that we address as investigators, instructors, and student advocates in a variety of contexts, specifically online spaces.

About the Author(s)...

Carie S. Tucker King is Clinical Professor at The University of Texas at Dallas, with research interests in medical rhetoric, ethics, technical communication, online learning, and usability. She teaches graduate and undergraduate students in digital rhetoric, advanced writing, research methods, medical rhetoric, communication ethics, and professional communication. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Tonya McMillion is Professor of Communication Design at Collin College in Plano, Texas, and a doctoral student in the School of Arts, Technology, & Emerging Communication at The University of Texas at Dallas, with research interests in technology and collaborative learning. She teaches and is interested in video production, screenwriting, and online learning.

Go to top