Online Education

A Division of the Office for the Advancement of Teaching & Learning

Making Connections Online

Important aspects of being an online student include visiting your course on a regular basis, sharing opinions and ideas with peers, and developing connections with the students and instructor. Communicating in an online course is different from face-to-face courses, because you can’t use nonverbal cues such as body language or tone to understand one another. Although you may have experience using social media (i.e., Facebook, Twitter), communication expectations in a course may be different. Here are some tips that might help!

Types of Communication

  • Forums and discussion boards
  • Private messages and emails
  • Assignments, papers, and exams

Read first, write later

When attending to discussion forums, you should read all the updated material and responses before adding your response. This will continue building the conversation and avoid repetitive comments. Also, if you have a question for the instructor, check the syllabus and any student question areas before asking.

Re-read and review before sending

A good practice for writing emails and submitting any text online is to read over and review materials before submitting: check spelling, grammar, and punctuation, make sure your comments are concise and convey the message you want, and make sure all files are attached. Drafting responses in a word document is also a useful way to avoid submitting incomplete posts.

Be careful with humor and avoid sarcasm

Humor is a great way to connect with classmates and show your personality, however written communication can be easily misinterpreted where there are no nonverbal cues. Think carefully about how your words may be interpreted, and avoid using sarcasm.

Always use appropriate punctuation

On the Internet, statements in ALL CAPS are read as shouting. On the other hand, neglecting to capitalize any letters can be offensive or unprofessional. Generally, it is best to use only one punctuation mark to articulate statements (e.g., I found the explanation of parts of speech to be confusing! vs. I found the explanation of parts of speech to be confusing!!!!!!). Write as though you were writing to a boss or a professor, be as professional as possible.

Additional Resources

Think Big We Do

Copyright © 2018 University of Rhode Island.