Communication and Collaboration

One important part of online learning is to study the course content provided by the instructors independently. Usually, instructors will post lectures, readings, and video clips on the course site, and it is your responsibility to review all those materials. Be sure to study them carefully, take notes on important issues, and write down the thoughts and questions you have. This will set up a good foundation.

Connect with Your Classmates

Researchers and educators emphasize the importance of the social and cultural aspects of learning. Some believe that online courses provide a more democratic learning environment, where shy students are more likely to speak up, and everyone has more freedom and opportunity to express their opinions. The instructors usually provide plenty of opportunities for students to interact with each other through participating in online activities, such as group projects or online discussions.

Participate Regularly and Frequently

There are many differences between online classes and face-to-face classes, but one thing that does not differ is student participation. Participating in online communication and collaboration helps to foster a learning community, and allows you to share ideas and co-construct knowledge with your classmates. It is important to frequently visit and contribute to the Discussion Forums. We suggest that you visit the Discussion Forum at least three times for each Learning Unit. Don’t wait until the deadline to post. Learning can be most productive when every participant is committed to and engaged in thoughtful and sustained discussion.

Write Carefully and Respectfully

Consider these tips on how to communicate effectively and appropriately in online courses:

  • Write in complete and logical sentences.
  • Use correct spelling, grammar, capitalization, and punctuation.
  • Do not write entirely in capital letters. Writing in all-caps gives some people the impression that you are shouting and it can be hard to read lengthy posts written entirely in capital letters.
  • Be brief and to the point. Avoid lengthy or detailed posts. Most readers will skim or skip overly long posts.
  • State and support your positions, but refrain from trying to overwhelm everyone with your opinions.
  • Let others know that you have read and appreciate their posts. In this way, you can create a real discussion, not a series  of monologues.
Interact with Your Instructors

Read the course introduction/syllabus for your online class to find out ways to interact with your instructor or teaching assistant (TA). When you have questions, some instructors will ask you to post them to a class Discussion Forum (so that everybody will be able to see the questions and answers), and others will ask you to email them directly to the instructor or TA. Don’t hesitate to contact your instructor or TA when you need their assistance. email is the standard communication method. When an emergency comes, you can also phone your instructor or TA. Some instructors offer face-to-face office hours even when the course is online. Identify how or when you can contact your instructor for appointments during office hours.

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