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Communicate and Connect with Students

Consistent, clear, reliable communication from instructors is a crucial element of successful online teaching. Good communication builds course community, creates a sense of teacher presence, and helps students understand that this is a real course with academic expectations that are fundamentally the same as a traditional on-campus course.  

Bear in mind that online learning will likely be new for most of your students, too, so they will rely on you to communicate expectations, explain course logistics, and provide updates in a regular, predictable way.   

We strongly recommend that you use the Announcements feature in Course Site for all course-wide communications. When you post an Announcement, all students enrolled in the class will receive it as an email, after a short delay.  To send it immediately, click 'Advanced' for options.

Why use Announcements? Doing so keeps all communications in one place and creates an easy-to-access archive of communications. This approach ensures that all students know where to go for information, assignments, and updates. If you use email instead, you will likely find yourself sending the same email multiple times if students delete or lose track of the emails they have received.

We also recommend that you create a Discussion Forum called something like “Course Logistics: Post here any general questions about assignments, due dates, etc.” and instruct students to use that forum for questions about how the course functions, questions about assignments details, deadlines for coursework, etc. instead of emailing you directly. Doing so ensures that all students see the question and your answer.  When students forget and email you directly, remind them to post their question in that forum. If you use this approach, it is important also to invite students to email you directly for any personal matters or questions about their individual work, grades, class performance, etc.  Some faculty are using for this purpose as well ( Slack Guidebook for Instructors).

First Steps: As soon as your Course Site is set up and students are enrolled, send students a Course Site Announcement to let them know that you are in the process of setting up your Course Site and that they will receive more information and instructions from you shortly.

Tips for promoting inclusivity in your class.

Tips for enhancing Teacher Presence in your online course: 

  • Perform a survey before the course starts or very early on: ask about student readiness (do they have the technology and course materials they need?), ask what time zones they are in, ask whether there are any special circumstances you should know about).
  • Check in with students personally.
  • Communicate frequently.
  • Respond promptly to questions posted in the Course Logistics Forum and to emails about individual work or personal performance.
  • Provide regular, prompt feedback on activities and projects.
  • Create a clear structure, but be flexible and adaptable based on student need.
  • Hold consistent virtual office hours.
  • Every few weeks invite feedback on course methods: ("Of the things I am doing in our course, which want me to keep doing because you find them helpful? Which do you want me to stop doing or do less of because you do not find them helpful? Are there things I am not doing that you would like me to start doing?").

Tips on using Course Site Announcements:

  • Announcements are an important way to humanize an online course. Give students regular course-wide feedback about how the class is doing and encourage them to keep up with the work. 
  • Because it is easy for students to lose track of the things they are expected to do, give your Announcement a clear subject heading (e.g., “Coursework for Thursday, 4/23/2020”) and include a quick checklist for students to follow.

    Sample Course Site Announcement:

    Subject: Check-in... and Coursework for Thursday, 4/23/2020

    In general, students did well on the Chapter 3 quiz and everyone had thoughtful contributions to the ongoing Forum discussion. If you did not post in the Forum do so before the end of the day today.

    Please check your grades and my feedback. Bring any questions on the reading or the quiz to our Zoom Office Hours on Wednesday at 4pm EDT.

    Our next class session is now available in Course Site.  Be sure to complete all of the following before midnight EDT, Thursday, Oct 1st:

    •  Log in for Zoom Office Hours on Wednesday at 4pm EDT.
    • Read Simon, Chapter 4
    •  Watch Lecture 3
    •  Post a response to the “Week 3 Forum” prompt 
    • Take Quiz 4

    Keep up the good work.

    See you Thursday,

    Professor _________


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