Six tips for communicating with online faculty
Get answers, learn more. You're not on your own.
At a Glance: Don't be afraid to ask questions, but keep it professional. Your professors are on your team.
Estimated Reading Time: 2 minute, 2 seconds
One of the advantages of online education is that you can study wherever you can find internet access. Whether you're an early riser or a night owl, a library patron or a beachgoer, you have flexibility to review and learn materials anytime.
But what about access to the instructors—such as when you have a question or problem? Here, University of Phoenix instructors offer their best advice on how to reach out so that you get the support you need.
Put a ring on it
Find out how each instructor prefers to be contacted: phone, email, text, Skype or smoke signals. You don’t want to send a dozen emails asking for help, then find out later you could have received an answer in minutes via text.
Ask early, ask often
You might feel nervous about bothering someone with a single question, but if you hold off on asking until things get really bad, you may quit in frustration. Also, it’s often easier for your instructor to answer individual questions as they arise than to be confronted by 25 questions all at once.
Act like a professional
However friendly your instructors might be, avoid slang when writing to them. Talk to them the way you would talk to customers or supervisors at your job. (Yes, this means that emojis, multiple exclamation points and ALL CAPS are probably out.)
If you treat faculty members as authority figures and communicate with them thoughtfully in a respectful tone, they may be more willing to provide a written recommendation or become part of your professional network one day.
Lay it out, with context
Since an instructor might have multiple classes, you'll get a faster response if you're clear and specific. For example, don’t refer to "assignment No. 1," but give the full assignment name. Describe which parts of the lesson you understand and exactly what’s giving you trouble.
If relevant, share your background so that the instructor will have a better idea of how to give advice. Let’s say you're having a problem developing an argument for an essay, letting the instructor know you're an engineer, a retail salesperson or a former nurse will help them meet you where you are.
Keep it brief
Instructors are busy—just like you! —so the more concise you can be, the faster you'll get a response. That’s not to say you can't be friendly, or offer relevant background information. Just try to cut the fat out of your messages and focus on succeeding in the task at hand.
Try to stay positive
At times, you may be confused or frustrated, but both you and your instructor want the same things—your ongoing learning of the material and advancement in life.
It can be easy to get bogged down by a heavy workload. But having a positive attitude helps you enjoy your work and keep an eye on the future.