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Communication Tips

Overcommunicate but don’t overwhelm students with text

 In an online environment, students will need more explicit communication about the structure and goals of the class, their performance, and your expectations. But students can only process a little information at a time. Shorter messages are better than long messages. Also, consider varying the mode of communication by adding audio or video files.

Establish regular communication patterns

Help students know how and when you will be communicating with them and what they can expect to hear.

One helpful practice is to post a daily announcement to the class that summarizes what students have learned from the previous day’s lesson, describes what students will be learning in the current day’s lesson, and explains to students how these lessons connect to major themes or questions in the course.

Also, consider reminding students in these communications about upcoming due dates.

Use multiple modes of communication

  • Use the announcement function
  • Send emails
  • Record audio/video messages
  • Comment on discussion boards
  • Include important information in feedback on individual assignments

Information in different modes

Let students know what kinds of information they can expect in different modes.


“Every day, in the announcements, I will include a short video summarizing what we have

learned so far and offering a broad overview of the day’s lesson, including an outline of the work you will need to complete for the day. Pay special attention to when the class will be meeting online through Zoom. Unless you are having problems with technology, your attendance will be factored into your participation grade.”

“Emails are reserved for personal communications or timely updates throughout the day.”

“I will be assigning you discussion topics and will also be communicating with you about your posts.”

“I will be providing you with written feedback on your work.”

“Virtual office hours will be held on Tuesday and Thursdays from 1:00 pm MST- 2:00 pm MST.”

Do not worry about repeating the same information. Such repetition is a best practice in distance education, especially if you communicate the same information in different modes.

Hold students accountable

It will be easier for you to hold students accountable for your communications if you have articulated your plan to them and have asked them to be responsible for doing their part.

Have a plan for when technology fails students

It is likely that at some point you will experience a technology glitch. Someone’s wifi will go down or their computer will break or our technology will fail. If a student can no longer access their computer, how do you want them to contact you to let you know? What is your plan if technology fails during a synchronous communication? What is your plan if a student is unable to access readings or submit assignments?

Template for a Communication Plan














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