All LMS offer a range of communication tools. Discussion boards are used for asynchronous communication, usually among the whole class. The lecturer or a member of class post a message other can respond to in their own time. These messages can be private or directed at the whole class. The lecturer can setup various discussion forums and can control finer details, like access restrictions based on group membership. Chat rooms provide a venue for synchronous discussion, relying on users being ‘online’ at the same time. Again, the lecturer can control various parameters. Another form of asynchronous communication is offered by LMS internal email systems. Each student has their own LMS email address that is to be accessed from within the LMS and is used like any other email system.
The communication features of an LMS allow the lecturer to stay in contact with all class members at any time, and, most importantly, facilitate exchange of ideas and discussion among class members. As students often change their personal email addresses an LMS email address ensures that the lecturer can reach each student.
If used appropriately there are no disadvantages to using these communication features. What is required from the lecturer is to choose the most appropriate communication mechanism for a specific aspect of a course and to monitor the communication.