Office of Academic Innovation

Communicating and Facilitating Online

The following checklist includes an excellent guide for effective facilitation. For example, online faculty recognize the importance of establishing expectations and demonstrating presence early in an online course. (Used with permission from the California State University's Center for Distributed Learning.)

Communication Types and Tools

Below are recommendations for matching types of communication and appropriate tools.  Remember, you can only expect students to check for updates in course site areas and with whatever frequency that you require in the syllabus (or a similar course policy document).

Updates and Reminders: Course Announcements

Choose one or more methods for broadcasting information to students once the course is in motion (e.g. reminders, changes, clarifications) and inform students to check for messages in these specific places. 

Weekly announcements in your course site are helpful to keep students on target to communicate logistical topics you normally cover at the beginning of end of a class session. You may choose post announcements each week to focus students, remind them what's due, encourage them and to disseminate logistical information.

Clarification and Questions: Special Discussion Area

Create a designated question and answer discussion area (sometimes called a café or Q & A area) and require students to post course questions that affect all participants (such as confusing content or assignment instructions) there. If they e-mail you instead, respond and remind them to post their question in the proper place. Allowing students to post anonymously in this area permits self-conscious students to ask questions freely. Encourage students to check this area before contacting you directly and to answer each other's questions.

Private Correspondence: E-mail

Limit personal correspondence to e-mail.  Using the Towson University mail system provides virus protection for you and your class and allows messages tracking between recipients.

Feedback and Encouragement: Everywhere

You have the more opportunity in an online class to have direct impact on each individual student's learning.  Once the course is in motion, you must provide feedback early and often to establish a relationship with your students, demonstrate your consistent presence, interest in them and commitment to guiding them through the course.  You can provide feedback to all class members in group discussion areas and in announcements.  Direct feedback can be sent though e-mail or by responding directly to posted assignments.  Depending on the technology requirements of the course, you may be able to provide written comments directly on the student's Word documents or editing changes using Word editing tools or verbal feedback in the form of comments in Word or stand-alone audio clip files.



Office of Academic Innovation
Cook Library Room 405
Phone: 410-704-2005


"I've also saved my best responses to individual there are these nuggets...of good writing on my part that I don't lose."
— Mark McElreath

Watch Clips of Faculty Tips

How can I orient students to our online class? (3:05)

What early contact is critical for students? (1:35)

How can I build community online? (2:12)

What communication is needed to help students stay on track? (0:27)

What's the most efficient and effective way to respond to content questions? (0:58)

How can I encourage my students to ask questions? (2:03)

Can I conduct office hours online? (1:10)

See all faculty tips




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