5 Great Ways to Get to Know Your Online Professor

Get to know your professor

One of the most challenging aspects of digital life is getting comfortable with someone you haven't met in the physical world. Text-based, online interactions lack context clues like voice inflection and body language that provide subtext to a conversation, so you have to use other methods when communicating remotely to make sure things go smoothly.

Effective digital communication is especially critical for online college students who want to take full advantage of their course materials and resources. That task can seem particularly difficult if you feel your professor is out of reach. Here are five great tips for establishing strong, productive relationships with your online instructors to get the most out of your classes.

1. Be proactive, but not overly personal

A great way to connect with your instructors initially is through a brief introduction. A common misconception is that online instructors don't want to hear from you. Often, sending a quick email at the start of your course with information about why you're taking the class, what goals you set for yourself, and how your instructor can help you reach them will establish a great working relationship right off the bat. Plus, if you ever do encounter a problem, your professor's first exposure to you won't be negative. Rather, they'll have some background on you and may be able to help even more.

That said, you'll want to avoid oversharing. Online instructors usually interact with even more students than traditional university professors, and too much information can be overwhelming. Keep your interactions on topic and related to the course, and your professors will appreciate your communication even more.

2. Participate using available resources

Most online education programs include digital tools to help students connect. It's important to familiarize yourself early on with the communication platforms available to you and what they do – then, use them! Platforms like Ashford Mobile for smartphones and tablets let you participate in discussion groups on the go and provide a great way to engage both classmates and professors in conversation related to the course. Especially look out for posts from your professor. Reading the content provided by your instructor carefully can provide great insight and may offer a solution you've been seeking on your own.

Ashford's Constellation® Platform is another great resource for interactive learning that's available on computers and tablets. Not only can you access and annotate course materials, each course includes a thorough description and learning objectives that can inform and enhance your understanding of the instructor's expectations.

3. If you have a question, ask!

In one way, it's easier to connect with instructors today than it was a generation ago when students had to wait until class or office hours. There are many more options for communication in the digital world, including discussion groups, forums, text, and email. Learn what communication outlets are available to you, and take advantage of them.

There are a few caveats, though. First, always use your instructor's preferred method of communication – if they ask for emails, don't text. The best way to contact your instructor is usually included in the course information or syllabus.

Second, try to answer your own question before reaching out to your professor. Search through the course materials and any communication sent by your instructor. Participate in discussion forums, and ask your classmates. Chances are, someone else has the same question. Doing your own research first, then letting the instructor know you're reaching out because you can't find the answer anywhere else, confirms your dedication and ensures you aren't wasting anyone's time.

4. Remember your Netiquette

Despite the way text-speak and Tweets affect how we communicate today, it's still important to remember and reinforce high standards of grammar, spelling, and professionalism when communicating with college instructors. Treat your online relationships with instructors and fellow students with care. Do your part to keep the atmosphere cordial even if discussions start to turn negative.

It's tempting to respond quickly when communication is instant, but it's also more risky. Particularly when you're feeling stressed or defensive, you may respond more rashly than if you took a moment to examine the situation rationally. Assume your professor is on your side – they usually are! Make sure everything you post has a professional and friendly tone.

5. Be patient

All relationships take time, and they're never one-sided. Online instructors continuously seek better ways to connect with students. They'll often provide material in an array of formats and offer several communication options in hopes that each student finds one that works. Then, it's up to you to complete the communication cycle.

Instructors and course developers spend a lot of time learning how to better connect with online students. They're intensely interested in figuring out how to bring the campus to you, wherever you are. By using the resources available, taking responsibility for your part, conducting yourself professionally, and investing time to cultivate relationships, you'll find your professors are well within reach.

Written by Ashford University staff.

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