Effective communication with students is essential when teaching online. If you can bridge the gap of distance, it will foster a sense of community in your class and allows your students to feel connected to you. A great way to ensure you are providing effective communication is to plan ahead of time how, when, and why you will communicate with your students online. Write out your plan to include in your syllabus, so they know what to expect.
Consider the following when creating your communication plan:
Communicate regularly: How often will you communicate with your students? Weekly? Every Monday and Wednesday? Every day? Whichever you decide, make sure it is consistent throughout the duration of the class so your students come to expect and look for your announcements. For the same reason, be sure it’s a pace you can maintain!
Communication should be multifaceted: What methods will you use for communicating? This could include email or the Canvas Inbox, Canvas Announcements, video messages, videoconferencing, or feedback via Spreedgrader. Consider using a couple different methods for different types of communication. To outline what topic(s) will be covered in a week and what tasks students will need to complete, perhaps you can make a video to add to each Canvas module as you go. Canvas Announcements are good for reminders, schedule changes, and updates, because they both send an email and create a persistent post in Canvas. Speedgrader is great for text or video feedback on assignments, and you can annotate many types of submissions for greater clarity, as well.
Set guidelines for student communication: How do you want students to communicate with you? What will your expected response time be? Are there certain times when you will be unavailable? If you include the answers to these questions in your Syllabus, it will help students know when and how to contact you as well as when to expect a response.
Provide personal, meaningful feedback: How and when will you provide feedback to students on their assignments? Will there be feedback on drafts, or only after an assignment is completed? When can a student expect to hear feedback from you? Will it be through email, a personalized video message, a rubric in Canvas, annotations in Speedgrader, etc.?
After you have solidified your communication plan, be sure to share it with your students so they know what to expect in regards to how you will communicate with them and how they can communicate with you. Providing your plan upfront will help eliminate questions and confusion later on. Consider sharing your communication plan in your course syllabus, in your Getting Started module in Canvas, and/or through Canvas Announcements.
Additional Resources for Effective Online Communication