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Communicating With Your Online Professor

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Many students today are earning their college degrees online. But how do you get to know a professor you may never meet? Can you expect a personal interest in your success when you can’t express your concerns in person? And what about all those questions you want to ask?

“Students often find they actually have more one-on-one communication from their online teacher, compared to a traditional classroom setting,” says American Public University System vice president Phil McNair.

“You aren’t limited to talking with your professor only at class time,” says McNair. “With online learning, you have access to your professor throughout the week – and often on weekends, too.”

At American Public University and American Military University – which are part of APUS – professors are required to check into their classrooms at least every 48 hours. They see student e-mails more frequently – providing for a quick and personal response. This continual feedback is unlike what students in a traditional classroom experience. Online students aren’t limited to “seeing” their professor only during class.

Students too intimidated to ask questions in a traditional classroom can become newly empowered online. And they never have to worry about being “called on” in class when they don’t have a correct answer.

“In face-to-face situations, students may need to be quick on their feet,” says McNair. “They may be afraid to hold up their hand. With online, you can take time to research the right answer, and provide a thoughtful response.

“The electronic classroom is the great equalizer,” says McNair.

Discussion boards provide another way for professors and students to connect. Professors post discussion topics and facilitate the exchange of ideas, research and information. This sense of community can help promote understanding of diverse opinions and create a trusted environment free of bias.

Responding to student e-mails in a timely manner, and regularly, fosters two-way communication and lets students know they really can count on their teacher.

“You have the professor’s full attention,” says McNair. “Students can ask a question or seek help via e-mail at any time, and they know they will get a direct response.”

These exchanges are central to boosting learning outcomes, because students can make sure they have a clear understanding of assignments, get guidance on what resources they should explore, and ask other questions they might not have conveyed in a traditional classroom.

At AMU and APU, classes are capped at 25 students, and most have an average of 15. Small classes allow every student to interact.

To assure that student needs are met, APU and AMU professors are “graded” too. “We get student feedback for every class with end-of-course surveys,” says McNair,“ And students can also e-mail the academics department directly with a question or concern. Someone will review their situation and provide prompt feedback.”

For students, communicating with professors via e-mail doesn’t mean ignoring spelling and grammar, or using texting shortcuts. Students should proofread their e-mails before sending, be as concise as possible, and communicate clearly.  This is college, after all, and effective communication is a key learning objective for all students.

– By Online Learning Tips Staff

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