Internal Communication within an Institution of Higher Education During the COVID-19 Crisis: A Case Study
Poster presented at the 2023 SWOSU Research and Scholarly Activity fair.
Pictured here is SWOSU Assistant Vice President, Division of Public Relations & Marketing, Dr. Jonathan "Boone" Clemmons.
The purpose of this study was to understand the role internal communication played in shaping perceptions among stakeholders during a major crisis event happening on a university campus. The main question that this study sought to answer was: how did formal and informal communication during the COVID-19 pandemic affect the perception and adoption of changes related to the pandemic? This case study utilized interviews and document analysis to understand both the change process and its accompanying communication. Workplace Social Network Exchange was the guiding theoretical framework utilized to fully understand the professional lives of participants. Four major themes were identified in this study; these themes highlight the perception of preparedness for the crisis, the rigid structure for communication, the disconnection associated with technology while working remotely, and the organizational saga around communication. The implications of this study provide actionable considerations for future crisis events. Practitioners in higher education should consider updating their crisis plans to reflect the lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic. Plans should include protocols for conducting regular drills to assess the campus’s readiness for moving to remote operations. Additionally, planning activities should include considerations for fostering informal communication during remote operations to lessen feelings of disconnection among faculty and staff. This study contributes to literature focused on crisis management, communication, and organizational theory in higher education. As one of the few studies on internal communication within higher education during a crisis event, this study begins to build a foundation for future research.
SWOSU Research, Research fair, Higher education administration, Communication