Communication is considered “a purposeful activity of exchanging information and meaning across space and time using various technical or natural means.” I have found communication to be central to my success in online courses that I have taken over the years. This might be obvious, but I none the less want to discuss 5 key reasons why communication has been vital to my success in online courses. These reasons span from perhaps the most mundane, to the most surprising.
1. Work Completion: Online coursework is obviously heavily dependent on communication simply for course completion. Falling under this header is the standard communications required to complete readings, assignments, and tests. This of course includes emails, uploads, downloads, and forum posts. You obviously need to undertake this communication in order to do well in the course, as it is the method that you share your work with the professor and, if applicable, fellow students.
2. Forum Participation: Online/course forum participation may or may not fall under Work Completion, above. Some forum participation is usually necessary as part of course assignments; you may simply need to post an answer in a forum, and/or respond to others’ posts. Other forum participation may be voluntary and not undertaken by all students. This could include everything from a ‘hello’ in the ‘Welcome’ forum to posting a link to an interesting and relevant article for your classmates. This kind of forum participation is a great way to make connections with classmates, share interesting information, and go ‘above and beyond’ for your professor. Remember, you are interested in this material, and so are your fellow classmates. Making the connections with each other is of value to all of you, and this is one way to do it.
3. Questions: Sooner or later it is likely that you will have a question, most likely for your professor. It might be content-related (what does X mean), or logistics related (is this week’s assignment really due on Wednesday? All of the previous ones have been due on Friday), and perhaps even beyond the scope of the course material. Communication is the only way to have these questions answered, and do not shy away from it. I usually communicate with my professors early, if not always often, and it has helped me tremendously.
4. Deadlines: I am not a bad time manager, but I have had situations which have led me to submit an assignment late. Early and clear communication with the professor is key when this happens.
5. Career Advice: Remember, your professor is an expert in their field, a field of very high interest to you (if it weren’t, why would you take the course). You are likely not an expert, which is what has put you solidly on the ‘student’ side of the course. Think about how often you have an opportunity to ask questions, receive advice, and even build a relationship with an expert in your field. It isn’t always as frequent as most of us would like. Therefore, going beyond the coursework minutiae and having a broader communication with your professor – whether career related or otherwise – is really is an amazing opportunity. Not only has this type of communication helped me gain greater clarity for my career, it has helped in the nuts and bolts of my current position. You may cross paths with your professor professionally sooner than you think!