Communicating with Students in an Online Course

June 7, 2023

On the Introduction

The introduction is a great place to set the tone for your course, and it should be short and to the point. In fact, you should have an introduction that's no longer than one paragraph in length, no more than two sentences per paragraph if possible. The goal of this section is not just to provide information about yourself (though it's important to do so), but also to give students an idea of what they can expect from this class as well as how it might differ from other courses they've taken before.

This area isn't reserved solely for describing yourself; instead, think about how you want your students' first impression of their professor/teacher/instructor/etc., which will likely occur here. If there are any specific topics or themes that run throughout all units within a semester-long course such as yours (and there probably will be), then highlight those now so that everyone knows what they're getting into!

Communication is key to online learning

Communication is the foundation of any learning experience. It's the cornerstone of any relationship, community, business or organisation.

When you're communicating in an online class, it's easy to get caught up in technical issues like "What is my grade?" or "How do I upload my assignment?" But communication isn't just about these practical matters; it's also about building trust with other students and instructors so that everyone feels safe sharing their thoughts and ideas with one another.

Be consistent with your communication strategy and stick to it.

Once you've set your communication strategy, stick to it. Don't change it or be inconsistent with it. Students need to know what to expect from the instructor and when they'll get information from them. If you're going to be late on answering questions or sending out assignments, let students know ahead of time so that they can plan around this in their schedules and make sure they have all the information needed for each assignment before the deadline arrives.

The most important thing is not changing your mind about what kinds of communication methods are best suited for your course, stick with those! For example, if one method works better than another (for example: video conference calls vs text messages), then don't switch back just because "it seemed easier".

clearly communicate your preferred methods of communication, response times, and guidelines

To ensure that your students are able to contact you, it's important to clearly communicate your preferred methods of communication, response times, and guidelines.

  • Explain your preferred methods of communication:
  • Email
  • Phone (and phone number)
  • Explain any guidelines or rules you have for communication: - Students must use proper grammar and punctuation when writing emails; I will not respond to emails with poor grammar or punctuation. - Students should include their name in all communications so that I know who they are when replying back to them; this helps me keep track of the different people who are asking questions about an assignment or topic we're discussing in class!

Use all the resources available to you

You have the tools to communicate with students in your online course. Use them all!

  • Email: This is an obvious one, but it's still important. If a student has a question about the material or their work, email is usually the best way to get in touch with them. You can also use email when you want to send out information about upcoming projects or assignments, or if you want to introduce yourself as a professor (or any other reason).
  • Chat: Some platforms offer group chats where students can talk directly with each other and/or with you as well as post questions publicly for everyone else in the group chat room(s) see them (and respond). This can be good if there are some questions that might benefit from some discussion among peers before getting an answer from their instructor(s), especially if there are no specific deadlines relating specifically back down onto what needs done next within each individual coursework assignment/project type scenario."

Establish a rapport with students early on in the course

Establishing a rapport with students early on in the course is important because it helps them to feel comfortable and confident in asking questions, sharing ideas, and participating in discussions.

You can do this by:

  • Using inclusive language (for example, "we" or "our") instead of exclusive language (for example, "I" or "my").
  • Asking for input from students about their interests and backgrounds; this will help you personalise your communications with them by referring back to these topics later on in your communications with them.

Encourage interactions among students

  • Use discussion forums to encourage interactions among students.
  • Create a sense of community and help them develop their own ideas.

Online courses are different from traditional classroom-based courses, but they still require the same kind of communication from instructors

It's important to be aware of the differences between online and classroom-based courses. An instructor should not assume that students in an online course will respond in the same way as those in traditional classroom-based courses, but it's also important not to underestimate how much students can do on their own without your help.

Students often ask questions because they want clarification or want you to explain something more clearly so they understand better. If you don't respond quickly enough, students may think that their question was not important enough for you or simply wasn't answered because no one cares about them in this course (which isn't true).

How often should I communicate with my students in an online course?

It's important to communicate with your students regularly. This will help you build a sense of community in the course and make it easier for students to ask questions, share ideas and discuss concepts.

  • Communicate at least once a week: You should try to communicate with your students at least once per week. If you have a lot of material or activities coming up, it might be better for you (and them) if you communicate more often than this - perhaps even every day if necessary!
  • Keep track of what has already been covered: If possible, keep track of which topics have been covered so far in each module so that when it comes time for review sessions near the end of each unit or module, everyone knows exactly where they need some extra help catching up on work before moving onto new material later on down the line.

What are the best practices for providing timely feedback to online students?

  • Provide feedback in a timely manner. The sooner you can provide your student with feedback, the better. Giving them time to reflect on what they did well and what they need to improve on will help them grow as writers.
  • Be specific and constructive. Let students know exactly where their writing could be improved so they can address those issues going forward, and make sure not to be too hard on them! It's important that you don't just say "I didn't like this" or "This was bad" without giving any further explanation; instead, use specific examples from the text itself (rather than references like "the essay felt disjointed") so students know exactly how they can improve their work next time around.
  • Provide private forums for feedback if possible, but only if it's possible! Sometimes there are logistical reasons why this isn't feasible: maybe some professors have large classes where giving personal responses would take up too much time compared with other things they need/want/are required by policy or law do during office hours; maybe some professors don't feel comfortable interacting directly with students outside of class due to privacy concerns surrounding student records etcetera ad consider whether setting up forums is even worth your effort before investing energy into doing so!

How can I create a sense of community and encourage student interaction in an online course?

The first and most obvious way to create a sense of community in an online course is by creating a discussion forum. This is likely the most common method used by instructors because it is so easy to set up, and there are many different platforms that you can use. It's also possible that if you don't have access to one of these platforms, another instructor might have created one for their class or even just for themselves as part of their teaching philosophy on communicating with students.

If you do not have access to a discussion forum (or choose not use one), there are other ways that can encourage student interaction: social media like Facebook or Twitter; emailing individual students directly; inviting students into small groups where they can discuss ideas together face-to-face or via video chat technology such as Skype, Zoom or Google Hangouts.

What strategies can I use to address technical difficulties and ensure smooth communication?

You can prepare for technical difficulties by having a backup plan. For example, if you're using an online chat tool to communicate with students, have another way to communicate with them in case the chat tool fails.

To ensure smooth communication:

  • Make sure that you have a reliable internet connection (e.g., WiFi). If your internet service goes out or slows down during class time, it will be more difficult for students to access their materials and participate in discussions.
  • Consider using an online chat tool so that if one student experiences technical difficulties while communicating with the rest of the class, they won't disrupt everyone else's learning experience by not being able to respond quickly enough when asked questions or make comments on posts made by other students during discussions.

How do I handle challenging or sensitive discussions in an online course setting?

In an online course setting, you can use a course management system to facilitate discussions. The platform will allow you to create forums and chat rooms for students to interact with each other as well as with you. It's important that you have policies in place for how students should behave when discussing sensitive topics in these spaces. If the topic is particularly challenging or sensitive, consider providing extra support by making sure there are clear guidelines around appropriate language use or providing resources on how best to handle difficult conversations.

It's also important that if a student has any concerns about what they see on social media platforms like Facebook or Instagram (for example), then they know where they can go with those questions or concerns so they don't feel isolated from the rest of the class.


We hope we've given you some helpful tips to keep in mind as you communicate with your students. We know that online courses can be a great way to reach audiences who might not otherwise have access to higher education, but they also present unique challenges when it comes to communication between instructors and students. As long as you're consistent with your strategy and use all the resources available to you (including those from other instructors), then you should have no problem establishing rapport with each student!

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