The Language of Text: How Typeface and Emojis Affect Student Perception of Online Instructors
Michelle Louch Duquesne University
Robert Bajko Ryerson University
Elizabeth Stork Robert Morris University
Abstract Typeface design and its influence on the reader’s perception is neither a new science nor a deep secret. As nearly a century of studies on typeface atmospheres and metacommunication demonstrate, understanding and acknowledging that a word’s appearance is as important as its meaning is critical for users of written language. In online education, communication is typically limited to emails, instant messages, and discussion boards. Face-to-face, synchronous interaction is not a given. As a result, the student’s perception of his or her online instructors is highly influenced by the words on the screen. In addition to the content, the appearance of text takes on significant meaning and students are likely to ascribe the typeface’s attributes to the personality of the instructor.
Emoticons, the combination of the words and icons/images that symbolize emotions, were introduced in 1982 to represent facial expressions (Dresner & Herring, 2010; Hogenboom et al., 2013). In the 1990s, the Japanese introduced emojis, a term which literally means “picture”(e) ”character” (moji) (Park et al., 2013). These are symbols used to express an idea or emotion in a visually suggestive and appealing way (Yuasa et al., 2006). Currently, there are 1851 emoji characters, commonly supported across most platforms, for pictorial expressions of emotions in most of the world's writing systems (Novak et al., 2015). Given their increasing popularity, it is important to understand how emojis affect the communication process and a reader’s perception of a text. This is particularly useful for those in academia who want to ensure that the visual rhetoric of their message does not distort the meaning of the message.
This study continues and expands pilot research examining the influence of typeface on students’ perception of the online instructor (Louch & Stork, 2014). The research question posed was how an email’s recipient (the student) might transfer his or her perceptions of the attributes of three typefaces to attributes of the sender (the instructor) of the email. One was a commonly used typeface, and the other two were selected for their dramatic difference from the common typeface. A four-point semantic differential scale containing nine paired attributes was used to measure the participants’ perceptions of the typefaces and the sender. The small sample of 52 revealed that the participants’ opinions of the sender were highly influenced by the typeface used.
For this study, emojis were added to a neutral and standard-sounding message, in different typefaces, written by an online instructor, to determine if and how these characters influence a receiver's perceptions about the attributes of the sender. An online survey was conducted to learn if the typeface affected perceptions and if the addition of an emoji in the online message altered the receiver's perception of the sender. Results may assist instructors in effective uses of typefaces and emojis with students to achieve a starting point that establishes authority as well as immediacy.
Recommended Citation: Louch, M., Bajko, R., Stork, E., (2016). The Language of Text: How Typeface and Emojis Affect Student Perception of Online Instructors. Proceedings of the EDSIG Conference, (2016) n.4190, Las Vegas, Nevada