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Establish Communication Expectations

Setting clear communication expectations is vital in reducing both the time and frustration that you and your students might experience in sharing information with one another.  The best approach to this is to determine, before the semester begins, your own schedule and availability. Once this is determined, then you can utilize your chosen technology to enact your plan and policy. 

When developing a communication plan, there are items that should be considered prior to putting the plan into action. These are:

Decide what mode (or modes) of communication you will use

 Options include:

Determine and share turnaround time for responding to emails and posts 

An important part of your communication plan is determining your response time to discussion board posts and emails. In your course syllabus and in other relevant areas of the Canvas site, include your response policy.

Below, you will find examples of language that you might use within your syllabus:

  • “Please check our Canvas site and your UTK email regularly. Typically, I respond to emails and chat messages Mondays through Fridays between 8:00 am and 4:30 pm. Allow one business day for a response. If I haven’t responded within one business day, please try again and follow up through another channel.”
  • “Please don’t hesitate to email me with updates, questions, or concerns. I will typically respond within 24 hours during the week and 48 hours on the weekend. I will notify you if I will be out of town and if connection issues may delay a response.” 
  • Course Communication Guidelines: Emails
    • Check UTK email daily
    • Check junk or spam email folder regularly (occasionally, email programs route UTK emails there)
    • Expect my email responses between 8:30am and 4:30pm Mondays through Fridays
    • Allow one business day (M-F) for email responses from me
    • Respond to emails within one business day—if I email you three times and you do not respond, I will send an alert to the Student Success Center, and they will contact you to connect you with UT resources you might need

Determine best way to respond to students’ questions

Encourage students to use a Canvas Q&A discussion so that you don’t have to answer the same question again and again. In the syllabus, establish the communication expectation for students to post general policy, content, or assignment questions on the Canvas Q&A Discussion boards and to email the instructor for questions relating to individual work. (Canvas Guide for Discussions. Below is language you might use to remind students where to post their general questions.

  • “For general questions, please use the Class Q&A Discussion so all students can benefit from the question and the answer to the question. I will monitor the board and respond within 24 hours during the week and 48 hours on the weekend. Remember to Subscribe to the discussion board so you get the answers to questions you may have, too.”

Determine how students communicate with you and each other

In addition to thinking through your communication plan for your students, it is also useful to provide guidance to students about how you expect them to communicate with you and with one another. This will include how students should compose an email, respond to you and their peers both synchronous and asynchronous, what information should accompany any assignments, etc.  It is important that you are as explicit and transparent as you can be about what you expect.

Here are some examples of language used to express expectations of students about communication:

  • “When posting to discussion boards, chatting through Zoom, and videoconferencing, please follow the professional guidelines we discuss in class. I expect all class participants to be civil and polite in their communications with me and with other students. You should also access the videoconferencing guidelines posted on the Canvas course site before attending your first videoconference.”
  • When sending an email to me (the instructor), please include a brief description of your concern in the subject line (for example, Question about Problem 5 in Homework 3 or Reporting my Upcoming Absence on 11.3.20 for Conference).  Please begin your email with a salutation and refer to me either as Dr. or Professor (for example, Dear Dr. Mathis or Good Afternoon Professor Mathis).  Please include your name, the course number and the section so that I can identify you.  State your concern or problem as fully as you can so that I might be able to give you the right response.  Please end your email using a professional phrase.”

For additional information on how to set clear classroom expectations, you can find resources on Teaching & Learning Innovation’s website. You can also find other tips and suggestions on netiquette here.