Communicating with Students

Lesson 5: Communicating with students

Communication with students should be frequent, ongoing and consistent

To have an instructor presence in an online course means to be engaged and present throughout the entire course.

  • Communicate your boundaries for email response time, online office hours, your role in the course, and what students should expect for your involvement.
  • Be clear about your expectations for student engagement – e.g., what do they need to do to be successful in the course, how much time to set aside each week. To be a successful online learner means to have strong time management skills, be a self-directed learner and be able to engage in critical discussions.
  • Model course engagement and presence such as being active in the discussion board. Remember you don’t need to respond to all discussion posts, but rather keep current and post strategically
  • Provide regular feedback and direction to students. Feedback can be provided to individual students at key times, but also to all students through the discussion board or as a news item on the homepage. Also consider how you can leverage peer feedback.
  • Communicate regularly with your students using weekly e-mails or news as to what’s coming up, what they should be doing and key dates.
  • Ask your students for regular feedback on your course. Use the D2L survey tool or have an open discussion topic for students to voice their thoughts. Provide guidance on how to provide constructive feedback.
  • Draw on informal supports and mentors to learn about new technologies and access institutional supports (e.g., TI) for learning and becoming comfortable with online technologies.

Additional resources

There are a number of tools in D2L to help facilitate communication with students. This resource contains information how to send emails to an entire class, best practices for online discussions and how to set up individual notifications. 

Communicating online can be a minefield of misunderstandings. Read this handout on effective online communications from the Teaching & Learning Office at Ryerson University. 

Lesson checklist

  • Write your communication expectations to include in the course outline

  • Get to know your options by investigating the communication tools in D2L and Zoom

More lessons

Structuring course content

Lesson 6: Structuring course content


Lesson 1: Introduction to online learning


Lesson 2: Foster an inclusive and accessible learning environment