By Tori Gushea, September 2015
The art of communication is something that takes years to master. Reading people's faces, learning their nuances, understanding the body language and not just relying on the spoken word becomes a skill that people work very hard to hone. Insert online classes and what we know for means of communication is now by the wayside. There is no classroom atmosphere that becomes familiar and eventually holds an air of camaraderie as people physically see each other on a regular basis. There is no opportunity to read body language, no opportunity to feel the atmosphere of the room. Communication is black and white and becomes very literal.
This is why communication with your professors is crucial. When a student has a question regarding assignments, due dates or even problems with a program, it is essential to talk with the professor. In the on ground forum, we take for granted the little side conversations we would have with our professors as we pass them in the classroom or hallway. Just a quick little question here, or a light-minded comment there is not an option for the student. Even a student's consistent presence in the classroom counts as a means of communication. If a student is showing up to class consistently, then the odds are good that student is a conscientious student. If that student never shows up, then top notch work will not be expected. In the online forum, there is no opportunity to do any of this. A student's impression on the instructor will be made with the communication. If something is unclear to you as the student, it is your responsibility to ask the clarifying questions. It is essential that when a question is asked, it is done so in a clear and concise manner.
The time will come when there is a problem that needs to be dealt with. When this happens, it is best to be as proactive as possible to deal with the problem. It is important to remember that your instructor does not see you in person and cannot read minds and therefore it is your responsibility to inform the professor of any issues that arise. When the time comes to communicate these concerns, be clear with your needs and possible solutions. Use the mode of communication that has been designated by the instructor to be the most efficient means to communicate. This will ensure timeliness and eliminate the question of whether a message was received or not.
Our instructors want to see the students succeed and the only way that can happen is if we, the students, give the instructors the opportunity to correct something if it's wrong, answer questions if we have them, or offer an extension for an assignment if it's warranted. Remember, in the end, the success of the student reflects on the success of the professor. Education really is a team approach.
About the Author
Tori Gushea has spent 13 years caring for high risk obstetrical patients and an additional 2 years managing combined Pediatrics and Obstetrical units. She has a love for learning and enjoys teaching through peer support, and in her role as staff orienteer.