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How to Avoid Miscommunication in Your Online Classes

How to Avoid Miscommunication in Your Online Classes

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By Dr. Jarrod Sadulski
Faculty Member, Criminal Justice, American Public University

Online classes are an excellent way to earn a college education. As a student, I always preferred online classes. They gave me the opportunity to have a flexible schedule and to serve on active duty while I completed my bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. online.

Unlike students in traditional brick-and-mortar institutions, most communication among online students and their professors occurs in a written format. To avoid the possibility of miscommunication in the online classroom, it’s important to consider the tone of your messages.

Forum Posts Written Quickly or in Anger Create Unnecessary Challenges

If a forum post is written quickly or in anger, comments and queries could easily be misunderstood, which creates unnecessary challenges for both students and instructors. Ideally, proofread all of your written communications prior to submitting them. This is especially critical in online forums where you, your classmates and the instructor discuss course content.

If I feel strongly about a topic, my writing is often influenced by my opinion and results in a different tone than I intended. Miscommunication in discussion forums can result in the class discussions going off course. One way to avoid that problem is to take a break and then return to the computer to proofread your comments prior to sending them.

Miscommunication between Students and Instructors

Miscommunication can also occur between students and instructors. If you receive an instructor’s  reply to a question that is not fully answered, it is important  to ask follow-up questions instead of ending the communication.

In some cases when an instructor’s written reply is not fully understood, it is best to have a phone conference with him or her. Many online instructors have office hours that are designed to allow you to call them. In addition to office hours, you are always welcome to email your instructor to request a phone call at a mutually convenient time.

Miscommunication can also occur over grades. Although online classes offer a great opportunity to earn a college education, you do not normally have the opportunity for a face-to-face conversation to discuss your grades on assignments or tests.

That’s why it’s important to carefully review your instructor’s feedback and apply it to future assignments when appropriate. This tells the instructor that you are learning and that there is no miscommunication in the feedback.

One tip is to take notes on the feedback. For example, if an instructor points out specific American Psychological Association (APA) or Modern Language Association (MLA) style or citation errors, you can note them and apply them on future assignments to ensure that the same errors are not repeated.

When feedback is reviewed and you don’t understand why points were deducted on your assignment, it is important to ask your instructor for a clarification. It is difficult to improve in your coursework if you don’t understand where you need improvement in your assignments.

Open, clear communication in online classes is essential to foster learning and student engagement. The communication skills that you develop through online forum posts, assignments and papers will stand you in good stead throughout your life.

Excellent communication skills are a workplace asset when you want to convey your thoughts and suggestions to co-workers, supervisors and even upper management. These skills will help you stand out in your future education or throughout your career.

About the Author

Dr. Jarrod Sadulski has been a member of the Coast Guard since 1997. His expertise includes infrastructure security, maritime security, homeland security contraband interdiction and intelligence gathering. He has received commendations from the Coast Guard. Currently, Jarrod is a supervisor in the Reserve Program and provides leadership to Reserve members who conduct homeland security, search and rescue, and law enforcement missions.

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