Establishing Communication Standards

It’s important to clearly define your personal expectations for communication with your students, while also explaining how you would like them to communicate with you.

Face-to-face courses have the benefit of seeing students on a regular basis, allowing for direct interactions  Hybrid courses have a significantly diminished number of hours for face-to-face contact between an instructor and student, while online courses typically have no face-to-face contact. In all cases, it’s important to establish communication standards with your students for any time outside of a physical classroom.


Faculty to Student

You should clearly define how often you will communicate with your students. When working with hybrid and online courses, it’s often typical for an instructor to define a response time of 24 hours or less. This helps to ensure a student receives a timely response, but not at odd hours of the day.  Face-to-face courses can follow a variation of this type of standard, however lengthy response times are not advised as they can cause student discouragement and disengagement.

Many students now come from a world of expecting quick responses to questions where 24 hours or less may not feel comfortable. It is important to set your own groundwork as to why this would not work for you, as many individuals do not wake in the morning and quickly respond. Define the hours that you will respond within as students may send a message at 2 am expecting a response while you sleep.

Always clearly define due dates and expectations to students through the syllabus, verbal statements, and information in Canvas.  More importantly, be sure to remain consistent – students can easily become frustrated when communication is inconsistent.

Student to Faculty

Define how you want students to contact you. Do you want them to simply email you? Text? Phone call? Twitter? Facebook? These are all ways you can communicate, but it is up to you to define which methods you prefer. You can also discuss communication strategies with your students, finding a common ground that students will feel involved in having created.

Civility in a Course

Remember that students may come from different cultural backgrounds and have varied ways of interpretation. Some language skills may not be properly perceived by students, such as sarcasm and humor, due to a difference of definition within a culture.

Define civility for your students. For example, you may be comfortable with the use of internet memes and text messaging abbreviated language among your students. If so, let your students know if this is acceptable behavior. If not, let them know as well.

Online, it’s best to follow the rules of netiquette, a simple set of five rules customary in general use of the internet and helpful in online course environments.

Technology to HelpA person texting on their cell phone

Here’s a few technology ideas to help facilitate communication with students:

Use Canvas – Face-to-face and Online Classes

Canvas allows for the creation of discussions, announcements, and conversation messages.

  • Discussions facilitate interactions across all students and instructors in a course, allowing for questions and answers.  Course help discussions are a great way for students to ask questions about content as other students may be able to give assistance.  They give the instructor an opportunity to see any common questions that are being asked and may be able to determine content that needs additional review in a class.  Learn more: How do I create discussions as an instructor?
  • Announcements allow instructors to communicate directly to all students in a course.  This allows for relaying relevant course information, information about instructor availability, campus events, and much more.  Learn more: How do I add an announcement in a course?
  • Conversation messages allow for students and the instructor to contact each other with ease.  Messages sent through Canvas in this manner are sent to each user’s preferred contact message.  This helps for having messages exchanged between student and instructor seen by each person’s preferred method, and can be replied to through the same method.  Canvas does the work of routing messages between users and across methods.  Learn more:  How do I use Conversations?, How do I add contact methods to receive Canvas Notifications?, and How do I set my Canvas notification preferences?.

Set Up a Special Phone Number – Face-to-face and Online Classes

A tool from Google, Google Voice lets you create a phone number that can be called or texted. Google Voice will forward calls/texts to a phone number of your choosing during hours defined within their system.  Anything outside of the defined hours can be automatically sent to a separate voicemail box, or held until your active hours begin the next day.  If desired, Google Voice does not have to forward to any other phone number, allowing it to be used as a mailbox for inbound calls.  Google Voice can be accessed from the web, via Android app, or via iOS app.

Additionally, the Google Hangouts tool may also aid in similar regard, offering Google Voice integration plus video calling.  Much like Google Voice, Hangouts has a web interface, Android app, and iOS app.

Questions? We can help!

Have questions about instruction, course design, teaching methods, technology to help, or more?  Please contact the Center for Teaching & Learning through our contact form or by phone at (708) 974-5347.