Effective Written Communication

The successful online learner must not only be able to read for comprehension, he or she also must be able to communicate thoughts effectively and appropriately in written form. Without face-to-face interaction, online students will be expected to communicate clearly and articulately in writing with their peers and their instructors. Effective written communication skills will help ensure that students are able to articulate, and receive credit for, their ideas in an online environment.

Below you will find some tips on effective written communication:

Begin Written Assignments Well in Advance of the Due Date

This tip is especially true for a multi-part written paper or assignment. As we discussed in the time management area, breaking down large projects into manageable parts is a great strategy and assists you in keeping on track. You may want to begin with an outline to help organize your thoughts and keep you focused. As you write your paper, be prepared to create multiple drafts. Re-read your work frequently and incorporate new ideas that come to you in future drafts. Another helpful strategy is to read your paper aloud, because doing so will help you identify areas of your work that might be confusing or may not be conveying what you intended.

“Listen” to a Discussion and Thoroughly Prepare Responses Prior to Posting

Effective communication online also involves effectively “listening” to what is being said. Students must listen to the instructions and expectations of the instructor and they must listen to the the contributions of their peers in order to generate an effective discussion. Strategies to improve your online “listening” skills in class discussion include:

  • Review the discussion requirements and due dates prior to beginning the discussion (ideally, as soon as the module opens)
  • When making your initial post, be sure to read the initial discussion question several times to ensure that you correctly understand what is being asked of you. It is often helpful to formulate your response offline, outside of the Learning Management System first and then copy and paste your work when ready. Doing so will give you more of an opportunity to compose your thoughts, rework your response, and make sure that your posting conveys your intended message. This method also protects you from losing your work should your Internet connection go down while working live in your course and it provides you with a backup that is saved on your local computer.
  • As with the initial discussion question, be sure to read the postings of your classmates several times before responding and use the method listed in the bullet above if a lengthy response is required. If you are not clear about the point that a fellow student is trying to make, ask for clarification prior to responding.

Check Spelling and Grammar

While most students do use some form of spelling and grammar checker on larger writing assignments and research papers, discussion postings often go unchecked. Please remember that in many online courses, discussion counts toward your overall grade and therefore should be treated as academic work. Most instructors have rules for participation that must be followed to receive the maximum grade possible and these rules include proper spelling and grammar.

Be Respectful of Others and Use Proper “Netiquette”

Students in any classroom should always be respectful of one another whether it be face-to-face or online. Student interaction and collaboration builds class community and leads to a more enhanced learning experience. We have talked about differences in the learning environments of the face-to-face classroom vs. the online classroom including the lack of non-verbal cues such as body language or facial expressions in the online environment. This limitation is something every student needs to keep in mind when communicating online. A comment meant to be funny and lightly sarcastic may come across as just that in a face-to-face environment, but without the non-verbal cues that accompany it, may come across as offensive in an online environment. As an online student, you need to try to avoid conversation that can be misinterpreted or cause harm to someone else.

If You Have A Question, Ask It!

The online classroom does not provide the opportunity to see, hear, and pick up on physical cues and body language. Instructors in a face-to-face classroom often use these physical cues to determine if students are grasping material or if there needs to be clarification on a particular topic. The online instructor, unfortunately, does not have an equivalent mechanism for doing so. The online student, therefore, needs to be comfortable asking questions and sharing their thoughts. It is up to the student to seek assistance when it is needed.