Communicating in a traditional classroom is natural for most people, but communicating effectively online can be a challenge. You can no longer rely on facial expressions or tone of voice in textual communications and your asynchronous students may not be able to arrange virtual meetings with a video or audio feed due to schedule restrictions or limited access to the required technology. Consistency in your communication and your expectations for students is extremely important.
Orient your students to their virtual classroom
Just like in a traditional classroom, it's important to introduce your students to a virtual environment. Make sure that they know how to get around, find what they need, and ask for help. Regardless of the structure of your online class, start your course with a welcome email and let your students know how to get started. Email is a familiar tool for most students and will ensure that they receive the appropriate information for getting set up in your course.
Make your expectations clear
Many of your students communicate online in a social way and it's important that your students not only know what they need to do in your class but how they are expected to communicate with you and one another. Informal language and web acronyms are often inappropriate for an academic discussion. Make clear statements about your expectations for professional online behavior and etiquette.
Provide prompt feedback
Many students feel abandoned
by their online instructors and disconnected from their classmates when they do not communicate often. You should check in frequently and respond promptly to students' assignments and questions. Let your students know how and when to contact you. Setting specific times and days that you are available will let your students know that you are a reliable source of assistance without consuming your schedule or filling your inbox with urgent late-night emails.
Establish a sense of community in your online class
Include opportunities for your students to talk to one another. Discussion forums or class bulletin boards are a great opportunity for your students to talk about class materials, share interesting ideas and resources, or ask questions. Make sure to participate in class discussion by responding to your students. Let them know when they are (or aren't) on the right track. This can help you discover when your students are struggling or when they're ready to move on to a new topic.