Tools and strategies for student communication


Interaction and communication with students are a critical element for online success. Online courses require regular opportunities for students to have substantive interaction with their instructor. One way to ensure that interaction is to understand the tools we use for communication and build a plan for when to use them.

Time to complete: 1 hour

Recommended timeline: Anytime!


Understand your time dimensions

There are two primary ways we typically interact with students in an online space. Synchronously (meaning everyone at the same time – like a video conference) and asynchronously (not at the same time – like email). There are many different types of tools under each category, from chat and whiteboard tools, to discussion boards. If these are all foreign to you, a good place to start is to familiarize yourself with the basics of communication tools in the online space.

Learn more about general communication tools

Learn more about asynchronous tools

Learn more about synchronous tools

Make decisions about which tools to use (and for what purpose)

We talk a lot about learning objectives when designing online courses – and they matter here too! Ideally, try to align the type of communication strategy with the goal you are trying to accomplish. A weekly email with a summary of the prior week and a preview of the next.

Plan for interactions weekly

Online courses thrive on interaction. In fact, policies around online education specify that you are required to have opportunities for student interaction, so it can be useful to plan ahead so you aren’t overwhelmed later.  If you are working from a plan, consider mapping out where, when and how you will be providing opportunities for interaction.

Learn more about time management for facilitating online classes

Next Steps

Find a community of practice or workshop!