5 ways to improve communication with online instructors
Talking with your online instructor is a lot like talking with a classroom instructor. However, it’s important not to let the lack of face-to-face interaction derail your communication efforts to be a better student. Students can really fall behind, says Pamela Moyer, an online mathematics instructor for University of Phoenix College of Natural Sciences, if they don’t know how to reach out. Want to make sure your communications skills are top shelf? Follow these simple guidelines:
1. Read everything first. This means thoroughly reading the provided course syllabus or reflecting deeper on a homework problem because the answers may already be present. Asking subsequent questions that need instructor attention is an empowerment tool, says Sherrie A. Madia, an online communications instructor and communications chair for University of Phoenix College of Humanities. “Asking questions shows that students have processed the information available and are now in the position to ask additional questions which enables them to become more effective online learners,” she says.
2. Know the preferred communication mode. The quickest and best mode to reach an online instructor at University of Phoenix is via each course’s asynchronous, individual student forum, says Madia. This is a one-on-one communication channel between student and instructor that supersedes all other communication tools, including real-time methods such as the phone, text messaging or live chat.
3. Explain any problems clearly. Explicitly describing what is misunderstood about a particular course issue allows your instructor to streamline a proper response. For example, Moyer says, this may entail “showing” an online instructor each step taken for a mathematical equation to indicate how you arrived at a particular answer.
4. Be respectful. Refrain from writing overly emotional, unprofessional or disjointed comments, Moyer says. An online instructor needs to know your educational dilemmas, not what’s going on in your personal life. There are also some informalities students are asked to avoid during personal conversations or within online communities that may be more common in brick-and-mortar classrooms. If you’re unsure about the guidelines, check with the school’s guidelines.
5. Check in regularly. Instructors do their best to proactively recognize struggling students, according to Madia and Moyer. However, they recommend students also take the initiative to regularly communicate course-related questions to their instructors. Instructors, notes Madia, “can’t point students in the right direction if they don’t know what troubles they are experiencing. The best advice for students is to let instructors know any issues right away. Instructors are here to help.”