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Tips on Effective Communication for Online Students

One of the most difficult skills for online students to perfect is communication in the virtual classroom. From emails to instructors to discussion posts and final papers, the online student communicates almost entirely in the written word.  For those weighing a few options for advancing their education, this can be an intimidating realization. Whether you’re already an online student or are pondering the possibility of becoming one, help yourself form a few great habits by browsing the tips below.

Be Professional

This may seem like a no-brainer, but making sure there are no errors, using a proper greeting and closing, and maintaining a professional tone in all communications will help you stand above your classmates. Also, remember to proofread your submissions, no matter how insignificant the assignment, discussion post, or email might be. Your instructors will appreciate the respect given, and your classmates will admire your attention to detail. Want an added bonus? Your professional habits in the classroom are sure to carry over to the workplace!

Stick to the Academics

If you’re required to participate in threaded discussions or you’re communicating via email with your instructor, remember you’re in a classroom, not a chat room. Just because you found a little extra courage by hiding in the protective technology bubble doesn’t mean anyone wants to read details of your latest family argument, how your best friend totally stabbed you in the back, or the fact that your 2-year-old is getting an F- in potty training. In other words – stick to the academics. Your audience – no matter who that may be – will appreciate it!

Avoid the Frantic “HELP!” Emails

Having trouble with an assignment that’s due in 3 days and not sure what to do? Don’t stress out on the details for the first 2 days, and then frantically email your instructor five hours before the submission deadline. As soon as you find yourself questioning your ability to complete the assignment, reach out for help! This helps you avoid the stress while giving your instructor ample time to give you the help you need to complete the assignment successfully.


You’ve taken the time to craft the perfect discussion post or email, so do yourself a favor and save it somewhere! Try creating a folder on your computer or on a flash drive for every class you take – then use it. Emailing your instructor? Copy yourself and file any response you receive in your class folder. Receive some particularly awesome (or scathing) feedback on a paper? Save it. As you move along in your academic journey, you may find the advice, feedback and general support you received from your instructors helpful in future courses.

Finding Your Study Space

By Kara Hawking

Seeking out the perfect study space for your needs is a great first step to ensuring your academic success! Every student is different, but keeping a few things in mind when selecting your space can help even the most reluctant scholar.

Use what you know about yourself to select the best setting for your success. Some students prefer complete silence, while others enjoy a little background noise. Then there are those like NCU student Carolann Carruthers Hampton (Ed.D.), who can pull it off in a room full of family! Hampton manages to combine school and family time by studying “on the couch with headphones and classical music. This way [she] can still be with [her] children!”

Take a look around your home and think creatively. Many students don’t have enough space in their homes to dedicate an entire room to studying, so becoming resourceful is a must. Current NCU student Lisa Stitzel Brown (M.A.Psy.) shares, “I do most of my reading in the laundry room while doing laundry.”

Evaluate your day for hidden down-time and take advantage of it. Almost everyone spends time waiting for food at a restaurant, sitting in a stylist’s chair, or riding in the car to work. Use this time to listen to a lecture or take a few notes (but not while driving!). This seemingly useless time adds up by the end of the week!

If you’re still struggling with finding the perfect space, keep in mind that your options are endless. As an online student, you’re not confined to the four walls of the library or lecture hall – your studies are wherever you choose to be.


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