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When communicating in your online class

  1. Ask questions early and often
  2. Develop a quick reference sheet of important contacts
  3. Use clear communication
  4. Actively participate


As Soon As You Have Them!

Waiting until the last minute to ask a question or ask for assistance is one of the worst things you can do in an online class. If you ask a question about an assignment a day before it’s due, you run the risk of not having your question answered in time for you to meet the deadline.

Avoid this situation by asking your questions early

This way you will have time to meet your deadlines and avoid the stress of last minute rushing. Try using one or more of these tips:

  • Set your own “question deadline” by building a time for asking questions into your weekly five day study plan.
  • Remind yourself of this deadline by including it in your master calendar.
  • Review your syllabus for the instructor’s communication policy and contact information.
  • Make note of how and when you should contact them with questions.

Use Online Tutors for Assistance

At Boise State, you also have access to a variety of online tutors for subjects ranging from accounting and economics, to math and sciences. Build time into your weekly study plan and master calendar to ask online tutors questions.

To access your account, access Boise State’s eTutoring web portal and follow the directions for accessing your account.


There are a variety of people and services at Boise State to help you succeed!

But they can only help if you ask for assistance. And since knowing when to contact someone is just as important as knowing who to contact we recommend creating a quick reference list of offices and support staff that includes office hours and availability.

Develop a list of contacts including:

  • Instructors for each course
  • Academic or Program Advisors
  • Technical Support
  • Registrar’s Office
  • Library Services
  • Tutoring Services

If you need assistance after business hours, look to the web!

Almost all departments at Boise State have websites with information and resources available 24 hours a day. Keep all your contacts in one place with this Contact List Template.


Communicating and interacting with your online instructor and classmates is quite different than an in-person class

Compared to in-person classes, online classes can feel less formal but you are still expected to use proper grammar and spelling when communicating with others. We highly recommend taking a few extra minutes to review and re-read all information before submitting anything for your instructor and classmates to view.

When communicating in text you won’t have tone and inflection to help explain your message

Keep in mind how your words can be interpreted. Avoid sarcasm as it doesn’t translate very well in text. Using ALL CAPS or excessively bolding text can be interpreted as yelling.

We recommend following these guidelines for effective online communication

  • Be positive and respectful of others thoughts, ideas, and contributions.
  • Use proper language and titles avoid texting or slang language.
  • Use effective communication by clearly saying what you mean.
  • Practice good manners thank others for their contributions.
  • Ask for clarification if you are unclear about what you read.


The main difference between active and passive participation is activity

For example, you are passively engaged when you listen to a lecture while you are actively engaged when you discuss a topic with others.

You actively participate in an online class by…


Engage with your classmates and the course material. Contribute more than the minimum requirements. Provide feedback to others and use the opportunity to have a meaningful conversation about the topic.

Reading and Writing

Online learning is mainly text based so prepare to read and much more than in a face-to-face-class.


Take time to reflect on the lessons from the class and what you learn. How will the material help you in a future class, job, or career?


From resources available on the Internet to tips, strategies and best practices for online learning, these tips for success are a valuable addition to your overall online student experience.


Tips for success in online discussions

Online discussions are a great way to engage with the course content and fellow students. They help to create a sense of community and can help students avoid the feeling of isolation that can come from learning online. Here are some tips to make the most of online discussions.

Understand the Requirements

A good place to start with any assignment or activity in an online class is to understand the requirements. Are there a minimum number of required posts? Do the posts have to be a certain length? Due dates? Ground rules to follow? Does participation in the discussion count as part of the final grade? Understanding the requirements will help to eliminate unexpected surprises when the instructor grades your work.

Understand the Questions

It is also important to understand what you are being asked to discuss. Are you being asked to discuss an article, something from the textbook, a news item, a personal opinion or viewpoint? Read the question carefully to ensure your post is both relevant and appropriate to the discussion.

Be Involved

Online discussions can feel taxing, or they can feel lively and fun; it all depends on you. Be involved and be an active part of the conversation. Unlike a traditional face-to-face lecture, in an online discussion you can take the time to think through what you want to say and how you want to respond to others. Use that extra time to really get involved in the discussion.

Be Timely

It is difficult to follow a conversation when you join it near the end. The same is true in an online discussion. You can go back and read what others have posted, but it will mean more if you are actively involved from the beginning of the discussion. Posting early encourages you to be more engaged, feel less stress, and have a much more rewarding experience.


Tips for success in online group work

Online group work takes time, effort and can sometimes be frustrating; but successful communication and time management can smooth the bumps and improve the quality of online collaboration. Here are some tips for making the most out of online group work.

Communicate Early and Often

Communication is vital to the success of an online group project. Initiate communication as soon as the group is established, through the learning management system, email, or other means as directed by the instructor. Introduce yourselves to each other, and develop a communication plan. In the communication plan establish when, how, and how often communication will occur.

Understand the Assignment

It is important that each member of the group understand all the requirements for the group project. Review the assignment; and if you have questions, ask for clarification from the instructor before continuing.  Ensuring everyone is on the same page will reduce confusion and contribute to the overall success of the project.

Establish Roles and Assign Tasks

Understanding the role each member plays in the larger group project will allow everyone to take ownership. A group leader can help to keep the group on track. Decide who will compile all work created by the group and who will submit the assignment to the instructor. If possible, break up the assignment into smaller pieces so everyone can work individually on one area.

Time Management and Deadlines

Understand the deadlines issued by the instructor, and establish reasonable targets for each group member. Try to leave at least two or three days before the final deadline to allow each member time to review and “sign off” on the finished assignment before submitting it to the instructor.

Recognize Group Contributions

Take the time to acknowledge the work performed by everyone in the group. This helps to create a sense of community and purpose among the members and will enhance the overall experience. After all, no one wants to feel isolated and unappreciated.

For more information and tips about online group work see “How to Survive Virtual Group Work” from

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