4 Tips for Connecting with Your Online Instructor

The Internet has made possible a plethora of activities that could once only be done in person. Online learning is one such area. Online learning is an appealing alternative to the traditional classroom setting for a variety of reasons. The relative affordability, flexible scheduling, and overall convenience of online courses attract thousands of new students each year.

But while online courses are gaining more recognition than ever before, students may have reservations about the seemingly impersonal nature of e-learning. However, connecting with your online instructor is a goal that students can reach by participating in live lectures, posting on discussion boards, and reaching out to the instruction through email.

1. Connect with your online instructor by actively contributing to discussion threads

Most online courses have a forum component that counts toward a student’s participation grade. The instructor may pose questions for students to respond to, or students may be expected to formulate their own questions or topics for discussion.

In either case, actively participate in the forum by both creating original posts and reacting to the posts of others. Directly ask your instructor questions that show you are completing all the assignments and thinking critically about the “big picture” of the course. Most instructors love to see dynamic dialogues in the forum and will respond to comments that are directed at them.

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2. Connect with your online instructor by participating during live lectures

Frequently participating in the live virtual classroom also makes a positive impression on your instructor. Participation can include using the “raise hand” feature, speaking or activating video when the instructor gives permission, and writing in the chat box or on the virtual whiteboard.

Writing relevant, thought-provoking comments in the chat box during lecture is likely to get your instructor’s attention. However, avoid writing comments that are silly, offensive, or off-topic. Instructors tend to remember and connect best with students who are vocal with their ideas and encourage other students to become involved. Participation shows that you are an eager, conscientious student, which translates well to your rapport with the instructor.

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3. Connect with your online instructor by periodically sending the instructor an email

If you are the type of student who enjoys a more personal level of interaction, you can write your instructor an occasional email. Start with sending an email at the beginning of the course to introduce yourself and to say how interested you are in the class. Following your initial email, you can send a brief message every few weeks to ask how you are doing in the class and to see if your instructor has personalized advice for you. Instructors are often impressed by students who seek out self-improvement.

As always, though, mind your email etiquette:

  • Do not type in capital letters, as they can read harshly to the recipient.

  • Always greet and end with a proper farewell, and use words like “please” and “thank you” when appropriate.   

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4. Connect with your online instructor by keeping in touch

To stay connected with your online instructor in the long term, keep in touch even after the course ends. Your instructor can be an excellent source for recommending other classes, methods for obtaining an internship or a job, or general academic advice.

Online learning is different in many ways from in-person classes. Luckily, there are a variety of ways to develop a relationship with your instructor. Building that connection is in your hands.  


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