7. Online Communication Skills


(20 minutes)


Online communication has grown exponentially in the last few years. Good communication skills are essential in your online courses.

In this module your will read about the different ways of communicating with your instructor and classmates. There are different terms in an online environment that you need to know. You also need to familiarize yourself with some concepts that will help with your online classes.

After completing this module, you will:

  • Read about the different communication systems of your online class
  • Know the different communication options for college students and faculty to communicate
  • Learn the proper netiquette when communicating in an academic setting
  • Discover how to become an effective communicator in your online courses
  • Find out about building a relationship outside of the virtual classroom

Communication Forms

In face-to-face communication, everything happens right there and then. You can see, hear, and read the other person’s actions in real time. But online communication is different.

Face-to-face interactions differ from online interactions.

There are different forms of online communication. Let’s go over the available choices:

  • Asynchronous communication is when you, your classmates, and your instructor participate in online discussions at different times, rather than in real time.
  • So if you send your instructor a question via email, participate in an online discussion forum, or post to a blog for your class, you are communicating asynchronously.
  • Synchronous communication happens in real time, like having a class discussion in a traditional setting or talking to a teacher after class.
  • You can communicate synchronously in an online environment too, through the use of tools like online chat, Internet voice or video calling systems like Skype or Google Hangouts, or through the use of web-based video conferencing software like WebEx, Zoom, or Collaborate.

Communication Options

There are different ways of online communication between you and your classmates and your professor and you.
Let’s go over the available choices:

If you have ever used a discussion board on another website or posted something on Facebook and had others comment on it, you know how to use the Discussion Board.

Canvas also uses discussion boards. Faculty use the Discussion Board in their course to let students talk back and forth about various topics. You can post text, video, and audio, as well as import files depending on how your teacher set up each topic.

Blogs are usually run by an individual or a small group. Entries are made periodically and typically displayed in reverse chronological order (so, the most recent post will appear first).

While Canvas does not provide a native blog tool, instructors sometimes use the discussions as a way to create a blog assignment for your course. The underlying mechanism for this method is allowing students the ability to create their own Discussions in the course.

Chat tool, a text-based chat feature in any Learning Management System, such as Canvas, allows you to exchange messages with others who are online at the same time as you. Sometimes instructors will use the chat feature as a way to hold office hours or a study session.

Because chat happens in real time, there is a sense of immediate gratification—you don't have to wait several hours (or more) for a response like you might have to with email.

Skype is a free software application that will enable you to make voice and video phone calls over the internet.

Canvas Conferences is a free service provided by BigBlueButton. This program is limited to number of concurrent conferences.
Software applications like Zoom, or WebEx are designed to support larger groups than Skype. They can provide a virtual experience that closely replicates an on-campus classroom.

Zoom is a cloud-based web conferencing service that supports high-resolution video and content sharing on any device. Zoom is available to all LACCD, including Los Angeles Valley College faculty, staff, and students. The program is located on the left-hand navigation of Canvas courses.

You'll probably want to plug in a headset or a microphone and speakers so that you can hear others and they can hear you more clearly. If you are using video, you'll need a web cam, but many newer computers and laptops now include this as part of their standard equipment.

Faculty can use these programs to:

  • Conduct synchronous (real-time) lectures for all users in a course
  • Broadcast real-time audio and video
  • Demo applications
  • Share presentation slides
  • Demo online resources

Announcements are modeled on Discussions. Announcements allow instructors to communicate with students about course activities and post interesting course-related topics.

Announcements are designed to allow instructors to broadcast information out to all members of a course or to all members of sections within a course.

Students may be able to reply to announcements, but replies are not considered to be a conversation and do not appear in the Conversations Inbox. In Canvas, you will see instructors' posts on global and course dashboards, and via notifications.

Communication & Collaboration
The Collaborations technology allows multiple students to work together on the same document at the same time. Collaborative documents are saved in real-time; meaning a change made by any of its users will be immediately visible to everyone.

Canvas uses this tool to create shared documents in Office365 and Google Docs. All collaborators must create and link their Google account to Canvas through their account settings.

Instructors can use Collaborations to:
Copy and paste notes that everyone can access
Share bullet-point lists or agendas for upcoming synchronous class, group time, or meetings
Create a text-based whiteboard that everyone in the classroom can see and refer to later
Assign student groups a collaborative assignment as a graded assignment (instructor feature)

Communication and Online Etiquette (Netiquette)

"Netiquette" is the correct or acceptable way to communicate online. It's the code of online etiquette you should abide by, especially when in an academic or professional setting.

Netiquette includes

  • respectful behavior

  • appropriate language
  • an acknowledgment of other people's privacy interests

Remember, your classroom discussions should be much more formal than the type of discussions you may have with your friends on Facebook or Twitter.

Email Netiquette

Email Netiquette is a important part of taking almost any class today, whether it's online or face-to-face.

Here's your challenge: based on the tips we've talked about today, help Brittany compose an email to her professor asking when the midterm will take place. At each step you'll be presented with two choices of sentences or phrases — simply select the choice you think is best.

The salutation part of your email:

  1. "Dear Professor Kennedy,"
  2. "Hi,"

Correct answer: (1). when addressing your teacher, include a title such as "Professor" or "Instructor," unless they ask you to address them otherwise. If you're unsure of your instructor's title, you can simply ask your teacher in a preliminary email.

The question/concern part of your email:

  1. "do u kno when the midterm will b? thx"
  2. "I hope you're well. I was wondering: do we have a date set for the midterm?"

Correct answer: (2). Even though it might be a convenient shortcut for texting or Instant Messaging with your friends - do not write email or a private message to your instructor or others in "text speak." Punctuate your message correctly, check your spelling carefully, and begin the first word of each sentence with a capital letter. Showcase your brilliance!

The wrap-up and sign-off part of your email:

  1. "Thank you so much for your help! Sincerely, Brittany."
  2. "THANKS SO MUCH!!!!!!!!!"

Correct answer: (1). Don’t use all capital letters for certain words or phrases in emails or private messages. Readers often interpret emails written in all caps as if the writer is yelling at them.

Building Relationships and Networking

The virtual classroom connection can develop into more stable relationships in and out of the classroom. It can help with facilitating exchanges of information between you and your classmates for mutual benefit.

Through discussions and other communications forms, as discussed previously, you become connected with your classmates, which in turn, creates a network of people with common interests.

To that, we might add the exchange of personal resources such as skills, knowledge, and contacts for mutual benefits.


Congratulations, another milestone completed! You should be more familiar with online Etiquette and building meaningful relationships in your online courses.

Return to IndexTutorial 8: Participating in Online Course

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