5 Rules for Effective Communication with Online Teachers

When I teach writing classes online, all my interaction with students is conducted through the wonders of a chat screen and email. Student who are new to cyberschool situations may not realize that there are certain details to be aware of when communicating online.

Here are 5 rules for effective communication with online teachers:

Rule #1 – Even though you may be alone in a room behind your shiny, metal screen, there are warm-blooded, squishy homosapiens with feelings on the other side of your comments. Do not say anything in an email or a chat box that you would not say face-to-face to a person.

Rule #2 – Keep in mind that anything you say in a chat box or in an email will live forever. Most webinar sessions are recorded for classmates and parents to review, including your comments! Emails can be saved and forwarded forever as well. Think of this before you type.


Rule #4 – Email your teacher whenever you have a question or concern. Keep in mind that online teachers often conduct more than one webinar class each week, so be sure to identify who you are and what class you are in so your teacher will know how to help you.

Rule #5 – Avoid writing to your teacher as you would a friend. Please do not tell your instructor to “hurry up and reply” or “respond ASAP”. Rest assured, your teacher wants to help you, and s/he will respond as soon as s/he can.

What tips would you give to a student enrolled in an online class?


  1. These are great tips! I am printing this out for reference so that my daughter can remember when she starts an online course this fall.

  2. Two suggestions for additions:

    1) check your syllabus, assignment instructions, and instructor’s posts to see if the answer to your question is in one of those places. Students who ask me what the reading assignment is or when an assignment is due show they aren’t reading course materials.

    2) Think about time frames before you email. If your assignment was due at midnight, your instructor is unlikely to have it graded by 9a.

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