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How do I communicate in an online class?

When talking with someone in person, additional visual cues are available to create meaning. As you've probably noticed at some point, it is easy to be perceived as harsh or abrupt in writing.

  • Assume your classmates and instructor have good intentions, because they probably do.
  • Encourage others to share their ideas and be open to being challenged on your ideas or preconceptions.
  • If you're upset by something a classmate or instructor says, don't reply right away - wait a little bit to cool down.
    • Sometimes a phone conversation can clarify a situation better than written communication. Online instructors are usually open to phone conversations with students.
  • Humor and sarcasm can be difficult to convey in text - use carefully!
  • Lean toward formality when you're not sure about the situation.
    • Use "Professor (Last Name)" when you aren't sure how to address the instructor or "Dr. (Last Name)" when they indicate they have a PhD.
    • Some professors may state right away that you can use their first name when contacting them but avoid assuming this.

Your writing in discussions and emails with instructors should be considered professional:

  • Use standard spelling, not texting shortcuts ("you" not "u," "are" not "r," etc.)
  • Use traditional capitalization:
    • Capitalize the first letter of a sentence and proper nouns.
    • Don't write in all caps or it seems like you're yelling.
  • Use spell check.
  • Stick to standard fonts and colors.
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