Communication is an important part of teaching. Communicating in the online environment requires careful consideration because you are removing the element of face to face communication and all of the nuances that are transmitted that way. Here is a general communication plan for the online class.
About a week before class starts I send out a Welcome to class email. This is the one I sent out at the start of the school year. When the students get this they should be completing a required session that the virtual school has all students and parents complete before being enrolled in classes. It goes over the policies and how to use the systems. The students who are coming from out of the district usually take the class in person so someone is there to make sure there are no problems.
Individual communication usually takes place through email. After the first few emails most of the students are very good about putting in a clear subject and being specific about what their question is. It rarely takes more than a few times of back and forth because they aren’t specific enough for them to understand the need for being specific. I generally now what they are referring to in the beginning but found through trial and error it is much more beneficial in the long run for me to drag out the emails when they aren’t being clear. I also will try to call each student within the first two weeks of class to answer any questions that haven’t come up as well as to introduce myself to them. It helps that I usually don’t have more than 20 students so that I can do that around my regular teaching schedule.
Individual communications with parents, counselors, and administrators are usually to share something great the student has done or a concern. Usually concerns are about lack of work since many students will initially have a difficult time working from home and completing assignments on time. I try to email parents once a quarter about something good that their child has done. This is especially important if I’ve had to contact them with problems.
Class communications are generally in the form of bulletins that appear on the home page of the class. I will also email important information out. General communication is usually about deadlines that are coming up, scholarship opportunities, and school wide information that needs to go out to all the students. There is also a method through our gradebook to send out messages to all the parents. This is used to make sure parents are aware of deadlines that are coming up.
General communication policies for the school I teach in is that emails should be responded to within one school day. Keep emails brief and call if FERPA information is being discussed. If there are problems, with a student or parent, administration should be notified so they aren’t blindsided when they are contacted.
Communication tools that I use most often are email and phone. I have used various programs such as skype and blackboard to have video available when needed. I think that adding a screen capture video program to the class for explanations that take more than a call or email would be very useful. These are also usually problems that occur with more than one student so it would be helpful to have a resource that could be used again when needed.