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Teaching Online
Home » Faculty/Staff » Teaching Online » Communication


Man with hand to ear Communication is much more important to student success in online classes. It is needed to break the isolation sometimes felt by students and to bridge the differences in background (which can be greater in online classes).

There are two main types of online communication:


Examples Pros Cons
Synchronous (live)
chat, virtual classroom, office hours
  • more immediate
  • better sense of community
  • difficult to manage with many students (see the sidebar in Using Groups for advice)
  • distracting
  • hard to censor
  • difficult to grade

Asynchronous (posted)

email, messaging, Dbs, announcements
  • more flexible for student schedules
  • convenient
  • better quality interaction since there is no rush


  • Community building
  • Should be updated at least once a week
  • Include: reminders of assignment due dates, comments on class progress, add interesting new information (news links, articles)

Dbs: see Handling Dbs

Surveys (see Bb's survey tool):

  • Can also give a sense of community and encourage more student-student interaction.
  • Results can be used in Db discussion.
  • Some give a survey at the start of the class that describes the course demographics and students expectations and attitude about the class.

Personal teacher-student and student-student contact:

Type Pros Cons
  • can send emails to student's preferred external email address
  • cannot receive emails from within Bb
  • when you add students, their default email address may be incorrect or one that they do not use regularly (you MUST have them immediately check their Bb Personal Information)
  • emails can get "lost"
  • hard to track tons of emails from many sources in your inbox (consider setting up a separate gmail accounts for each class see "forwarding email")
  • can be blocked by spam filters
  • can be 100% positive student has received the message
  • students do not check messages and there is no alert (this will be changed in the next version of Bb
  • you can make email tool unavailable within Bb and only run internal Bb messaging - alert students to frequently check for messages
Written Work Feedback
  • entered in the "Feedback to User" textbox
  • besides assignment discussion, these can include personal issues as a better substitute for email

Email Advice:

  • Be sure that students have their correct email listed in WebAdvisor/Bb or you will not be able to contact them. Any changes made to email addresses in Bb will be overwritten each night by WebAdvisor - be sure alert your students to correct their email addresses in WebAdvisor.
  • Besides a welcome email (see Orientation), you might also include and end-of-course goodbye email including their final grade.
  • Be sure to save all emails and messages to and from students throughout a semester in case of disputes.
Last Updated: 10/04/2017

In Focus

Cindy Morrin on communicating with PDC 124 online students.
  • Grossmont
  • Cuyamaca
A Member of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District