Center for Learning, Experimentation, Application, and Research

Online Communication Tips

This page provides tips and resources for more effective online communication which is crucial for student success in online education and increasingly for all classes as online communication becomes more commonplace, regardless of course modality.

Note for instructors: This page provides students with tips for communicating more effectively online. We recommend including it in your syllabus and/or Start Here section of your online course.

General Guidelines

  • Remember that college communication is still professional communication. Use correct spelling and grammar and always double-check your response before hitting send or reply. Do not use slang and limit the use of emoticons.
  • Use standard, readable fonts, sizes, and colors and avoid writing in all caps.
  • Use your instructor’s title of “Dr.” or “Professor,” or if you don’t know use “Mr.” or “Ms.” Do not use “Mrs.” to address female instructors unless told otherwise by said instructor.
  • Be mindful of tone in online communication as it lacks the nonverbal cues of face-to-face communication that provide clarity and context to conversations.
  • Respect the personal identities of others based on gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, class, and/or culture.
  • Respect the privacy of yourself, your instructor, and your peers. Keep in mind what you reveal and do not reveal, particularly if this information involves personal health and/or classroom performance, such as grades.
  • Give people the benefit of the doubt. Though there may be a computer between you, there are people on the other side of the screen.
  • Do not make assumptions about others’ technological skills. Technological skills vary across a variety of factors, including experience, age, culture, etc.

Communicating via Email

  • Check the syllabus before asking a question about the course and let the instructor know you checked the syllabus before asking. Instructors put a lot of time into making syllabi as comprehensive as possible for students.
  • Use a descriptive subject line to get the instructor’s attention. Instructors receive a lot of emails and a descriptive subject line helps them identify student inquiries more efficiently.
  • Be concise and to the point.

Discussion Board Communication

  • Treat your posts like the professional communication that they are. Use correct spelling and grammar and always double-check a response before hitting send or reply. Do not use slang and limit the use of emoticons.
  • Read all the messages in a thread before replying so you do not repeat something one of your peers may have already said.
  • Avoid replies such as “I agree” and instead explain why you agree or do not agree.
  • Show your work by sharing resources and utilizing citations.
  • When disagreeing, do not make personal attacks or use language that discriminates based on gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, class, and/or culture.