Communicating with Students

As a class progresses across a semester, it’s important to keep lines of communication open between students and instructors. Instructor communication to students can, among others, help ease students through course concerns, relay information, and remind of important dates. Communication between students can help build a sense of community and connection. Communication from students to instructor can help keep students going through a class, seeking support when needed.


Most ideas will work for both face-to-face and online courses.

Set 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.

You should clearly define how often you will communicate with your students, and through what methods. 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. A face-to-face class has the advantage of in-person contact on a regular basis, but still needs standards for outside of the classroom.

Collaboratively determine standards

What methods of communication work best for you and your students? With some parameters pre-set, Consider having a class discussion to determine reasonable communication standards for everyone, finding a common ground that students will feel involved in having created.

Remind students to communicate

When teaching the course, remember to remind students of your availablity and your willingness to support them in succeeding with their courses. Expressing a welcoming attitude and an openness to aiding students can help students remember that it’s ok to have questions about coursework. This is especially important in an online course where students do not have an opportunity to directly interact with their instructor.

Offer multiple avenues of communication

Do you want them to simply email you? Text? Phone call? Twitter? Facebook? These are all ways you can communicate, but it’s up to you to define which methods you prefer. Consider discussing the best options for you and your students, ensuring a proper balance between support and privacy. If allowing phone calls or texts, consider using a tool like Google Voice to allow these options without giving out a personal phone number.

Send announcements and write emails

Writing a course announcement, email to the class, or to a specific student, can keep open lines of communcation with students. These methods can keep students informed about items related the course, while also providing direct communication outside of the classroom.

Technology to Help

Canvas announcements

Canvas Announcements are a great way to connect with students. As Canvas handles most notifications related to upcoming tasks in a class, Announcements can be used for major task reminders, informing of class and campus events, class cancellations, information about the class, and much more. Announcements are automatically sent based upon a student’s notifications.

Social Media

Social media offers an added line of communication for students and instructors alike. Social media can be used as a means of communicating information, but also interaction between a class and a guest speaker, a backchannel to a classroom discussion, a place to post items related to course content, and more. One of the easiest ways to work with social media is to establish a class hashtag (#hashtag) on Twitter, which everyone then uses as part of their message to create a single feed of content. As an example, a criminal justice class at the college uses the hashtag #crj201, which often has a guest speaker via the platform, as well as student examples of class content and reminders/information from the instructor.


Text messaging is a critical aspect of communication in the modern day. It enables anyone carrying their device to recieve or send a message on a near instantaneous basis. Instructors can leverage text messaging through tools like Remind. When using a Higher Ed free plan, instructors can send messages to students phones without identifying the instructor’s personal phone number. Instructors will need to ask students to opt in to using the service as it’s necessary to ask for student phone numbers to enter them into the service.

Google Voice

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.


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.