As we enter the fall semester, the importance of communication is more important than ever before. For many faculty and students, the environment of teaching and learning will be unfamiliar. Effective and consistent communication will be key to adjusting to the “new normal.” Below you will find feedback from students after the transition of Spring 2020 and tips on how to establish and maintain good communication with your students.

Student Responses:

These are responses to a survey from students after the College transitioned from in-person to online learning during Spring 2020:

  • The only issue for me was when the teacher wouldn’t respond to an email in a timely manner since that is the only way I could contact them.”
  • “My professors that made themselves available to talk to almost every single day made me feel like I had a grip on all the work I was doing and like I could get through the end of the semester without worrying.”
  • “It was difficult to ask questions when I needed help on an assignment.”
  • “There was an overall lack of clarity of what was expected from a few of my classes.”
  • “It was harder to build relationships with people and teachers.”
  • “Some of my professors sent weekly emails to check in on us. It was a nice way of showing they cared, and it meant a lot.”

Tips for Effective Communication:

 

    1. Be sure to inform your students a MINIMUM OF ONE WEEK IN ADVANCE about how you choose to conduct your class.
    2. Post your Syllabus in OAKS. Your syllabus is the framework for your course. It should provide structure for your students and set clear expectations of how the course will go. It should also contain your contact information, your office hours (virtual or in-person), and any other instructions relevant to communication.Tips on how to craft your syllabus.  OAKS is the College of Charleston’s Learning Management System (LMS). It is an online portal where you can share learning materials, host discussions, post grades, and much more. We encourage you to post your syllabus on OAKS so that it is accessible to your students.Create a content module in OAKS where you can post your syllabus
    3. Establish policy of regular communication. Let students know how often they can expect to hear from you and stick to that schedule. Try to reply promptly to emails (within 24 hours) and establish a grading period for projects, assignments, etc. so that your students know how long it will take before they get feedback. Also consider establishing a regular class-wide communication such as weekly emails or announcements in OAKS.  Create course announcements in OAKS
    4. Create a sense of community. In the absence of face-to-face interaction, it is more important than ever that we try to foster a sense of community online. Try to find ways to engage your students. Remember that students like to feel that they have a connection with you, the instructor, and to other students.  7 tips for increasing student engagement in online courses
    5. Assignment feedback. When grading assignments, please provide students with prompt and thoughtful feedback. If a reply to a question or an answer to a problem did not meet the criteria for success, help the student understand why and give them guidance so that they can learn from the experience. Stick to your schedule as established in your communication policy and/or syllabus and let the class know if grading will take longer than expected.  How to give your students better feedback with technology
    6. Office Hours. Be available to your students if they need help. Schedule a couple of hours a week when students can contact you and ask questions. Be sure to post that schedule in your syllabus. If in-person meetings are not viable for the Fall semester, the College has a site-license for Zoom which allows faculty and students to engage via videoconference at no cost to faculty or students.  Video tutorial: Setting up office hours with Zoom

    Additional Resources:

    For more ideas on how to improve communication in your online or hybrid course, check out these links:

  1. General Netiquette Guidelines

    Communicating Effectively With Your Students

    Achieving a Culture of Communication on Campus

    Put People First: How Colleges Can Communicate Effectively About COVID-19

    Best Practices for Facilitating Communication-Centered Professional Development for Non-Communication Faculty

    Convenience, Communications, and Control: How Students Use Technology