flip that course 4

Read the entire flip that course series on translating traditional courses for online delivery:

  1. Brainstorming
  2. Course Layout and Syllabus
  3. Communication Among Students
  4. Communication Between Students and Faculty
  5. Addressing Learning Styles
  6. Packaging Content

Fourth in a series on how to translate a face-to-face course into an online course.

** Let me begin by adding a link that I added as an update at the end of the last post: Dialogue-Intensive Learning by

In the last post, we looked at how you can create a sense of teamwork and community among students in an online course. And even when you are playing a significant role in those activities, there are other ways that online teachers need to be attentive to communicating with students, often on an individual basis.

There will be times when students need to talk–about assignments, about quality of work, about absence, the typical conversations that students and faculty have during a term. Online students, though, may not live on campus or even in the region, and they will likely have diverse schedules that make the typical office hours unsatisfactory. How will you handle those demands? How will you re-imagine your office hours?

Let’s look at some tools first [wow–these seem old]:

  • Instant messaging can be an option, but are there IM tools that allow users in different systems to communicate with each other, or will your students need to download and join the system you prefer?
    • Google Talk is compatible with AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), for example, so you can login to both at the same time on Google.
    • Apple’s iChat is also compatible with AIM, but you can only login to one account at a time.
    • BeeNut is a multi-compatible IM service, but only for Windows PCs. It is compatible with AIM, MSN Messenger, Yahoo Messenger (Y!), ICQ, and QQ. If you determined that none of your students used a Mac, this might be a useful solution.
  • Email will always be a standard for communication among groups with widely diverse schedules. Just make sure that you set up good rules for making emails effective and for expectations of replies.
    • Model an effective email for students, showing how specifics and thorough details will result in fewer back and forth clarifications. For example, if a student wants to have a live chat via one of the instant message tools, but cannot meet your posted time, he or she needs to make a specific request:
      • “Ms. Smith, I would like to talk to you before the weekend about the next paper assignment, but I am working during your office hours. I can be available from 9:00 to 9:30 PM on Monday or Wednesday, and between noon and 3:00 PM on Thursday. Let me know if you are available during these times. If we cannot chat, I am willing to carry on an email discussion.” It might also be nice to hear the topic of the discussion, so you can be prepared without wasting time.
    • You might set up a period of 12-24 hours for expectations of replies to email from you or your students.
  • Discussion Board Open Forum. Whether or not you are already using your Blackboard Discussion Board, an Open Forum can be a place where questions of a general nature about the class can be posted for all to see. It would allow students and faculty to respond to questions that more than one student needs to have answered. It’s a much better way to convey information to the group than a series of individual emails. It must, however, be restricted to questions that are not urgent or personal, as discussion boards are not places for immediate responses, much like email.

Office Hours might seem like an out of date concept for an online course, although it is possible that some of your students are in the area and can actually meet face-to-face. But for those students you will only meet online, the structure of set hours when you are available, whether by IM or email or telephone, can at least serve as a reliable anchor of contact. Even if you work flexibility into your contact arrangements, no one can be available 24/7.


Categories: communication, online learning


5 replies


  1. flip that course « AEC Instructional Technology
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