5 ways to better connect with faculty & staff as an online student

One of the top hesitations for students considering an online program is the fear that they won’t have the opportunity to connect with professors when they have questions or to obtain lasting connections for the future. Fortunately, this fear is far from reality. In reality, professors and staff at UGA not only make themselves available to their online students in a variety of ways but also find meaningful ways to support and get to know them.

Five ways to better connect with faculty as an online studentWhile contacting professors online may be a bit intimidating and awkward at times, it’s important to keep some things in mind to make sure you’re getting the most out of your communication with your online professors and staff. 

1. Make note of their preferred method of contact during the first week of class. 

Typically, professors will lay out what their preferred methods of contact are during the first week of class and it will be explicitly laid out in the syllabus. Some faculty will prefer email, others will prefer phone calls or text messages.  Many faculty will also utilize message and discussion boards in the online learning system. We're all adults and we all have busy schedules, so to get the most out of your communication interactions, communicating via preferred methods makes it easy and quick for everyone involved.

2. Many professors will have virtual office hours where you can pop in virtually via Skype or Zoom -- utilize that! 

Being an online student doesn’t mean you can’t meet one-on-one with professors and staff members. Many professors who teach online meet with students individually through a service like Skype or Zoom. This allows you to speak with the professor freely in real time. 

3. When emailing, use the subject line to convey your top point. 

Professors and staff are here to support you, but like you they're also very busy. Each day they’re going to talk to and assist hundreds of students, so it’s important to be concise and have the main point in the subject line so the professor or staff member can handle the needs of students in the proper order. If you’re emailing about a specific assignment, include the name, and always include which class you’re emailing in regards to. Professors teach many classes so knowing what class you’re talking about is crucial to getting an accurate answer. 

4. Be brief. 

Like we mentioned, everyone is busy. Think about an email as a written elevator pitch. You need to get out your point by asking short, direct questions that don’t require an extensive answer. If your email is too long, the reader of the email will put off reading and responding, but by keeping it brief and concise, you’ll encourage a quicker response time. 

5. Finally, make sure you address the faculty or staff member properly.

Though it is important to be brief, there is always time for politeness. Always start the email greeting the professor with their preferred moniker (Dr., Ms. Mrs., etc.) and make sure you introduce yourself and what class you’re in! Professors have a lot of students in all of their classes so it’s important to identify who you are, you can also leave a lasting impression this way. 

Communication with your professors and support staff is a crucial part of your educational experience and it’s important to make the right impression when you are contacting them via any means of communication. First impressions are key, so make sure it’s a lasting one.