The information contained in this section provides some important points and suggestions you should consider when engaging in asynchronous online communication.
Whether it be in your academic studies, or your professional career, exchanging emails is a common mode of communication with others – as such, it can also be a common source of miscommunication as people tend to rely on the same non-verbal cues that they use in face-to-face communication. Whether it is a simple question, or a more complex issue, it is best that you ALWAYS approach writing emails with a professional tone and academic language. Here are some guidelines to help:
- Always include a “Subject Line” that infers what your email is about.
- If you are emailing an instructor, it is best that you include a reference to the course you are enrolled in so the instructor does not have to “guess” – for example, in your subject line include “HKIN 100 - ….”
- Begin your email with the proper salutation (Mrs., Mr., Dr., etc…) – this establishes a professional, respectful tone.
- Be mindful of other people’s time – your message should be respectful, but it should also be concise. Lengthy emails for simple matters discounts the value other’s place on their own time and resources.
NOTE: If you have a more complex matter, it might be better to use the email to set up a meeting or a phone call so that your concern can be given the time and attention it deserves.
Avoid these pitfalls
Did you spend some time looking to see if your question was already addressed in a course syllabus, announcement, discussion forum, or course site?
Before hitting the send button
- Consider how you feel. If you are upset by something (such as a grade), have you taken a moment to reflect on your emotions? This is a good idea to ensure that we are not writing something when we are upset…remember, once we send something, we can’t take it back!
- Consider how email works. Typical email responses are slower than chat. When and how often people check their email varies and depends on their workflow. Sending multiple emails on the same topic will not give you an immediate response.
Things to avoid
- Casual/Conversational Language – an email IS NOT the same as texting!
- A Rude Tone – Tone DOES NOT translate in an email – even if you intend something as a joke, it may be taken seriously
- Poor Grammar/Spelling – you are communicating in an academic and professional environment…invest time in proofreading your message.
- Misspelling people’s names
- Using “unprofessional” fonts or colours – stick with Times New Roman or Arial (for example).
- Using ALL CAPS – it makes your email feel like you are yelling.
Most instructors work during a typical work day, which means that their availability is usually between the hours of 9am -5pm Monday through Friday. The immediate response that may be typical of texting or social media platforms is not common with email. When you send emails to your instructors, leave time for them to respond. Instructors will try to respond within a couple of days at most. Do not send repeat emails trying to elicit a speedy response!
Before sending an email or replying to an email, be sure to carefully consider:
- Is the content of this email intended for everyone or just one person? Be VERY careful using the “Reply All” function!
- Does this email include sensitive and confidential information? There is always the possibility that your words could be forwarded along without you knowing so be aware of what you put in writing.
- What does your email address say about you? Are you using an institutional email (@mytwu.ca)? or a personal address (like @gmail.com, or @hotmail.com)? If you are using a personal address, is it professional in name? (Always remember this is a professional, academic environment).
Online Discussion Forums
A discussion board is an academic environment - and if it is part of your grade, you are being assessed on how well you interact and communicate your ideas. Online discussion groups are most commonly used to develop critical thinking skills, foster innovation, and facilitate learning. To realize those benefits, everyone in the group must feel respected and safe. Spend time carefully thinking about content and tone before making your comments public. The following guidelines help to promote a positive experience for all:
- Read the whole discussion before adding a comment – this helps provide context.
- DO NOT repeat points that have already been made – you should focus on bringing something “new” to the discussion.
- Ensure your post is “on topic” and within the scope of the course content.
- Be thorough while being clear and concise
- Use full sentences as much as possible.
- Opinions WILL differ – this is the intention of a discussion board!
- Learning involves exposing ourselves to new ideas that challenge our thinking.
- Sharing personal experience is acceptable
- Experiences of the other members of your learning group will bring new perspectives to your own understanding.
- Embrace new ideas as a positive thing – even if you disagree!
- Approach critiques and feedback as constructive developments in your learning journey.
- Recognize that diversity is important for our own personal growth.
- Ensure your ideas are supported by factual evidence.
- Use the course readings to support your ideas. Reference the readings with proper citations.
- Avoid conspiracy theories or gossip
- Also avoid generic replies such as “I agree”. Extend this idea by contributing your own opinion, experience, or connect it to another concept.
- Proof-read and edit your work before posting so that it is explicit and clear
- Express disagreement in a respectful, non-critical manner.
- Do not attack or make personal, insulting remarks when opinions differ. Do not blame others.
- Be sure to explain idioms and Christian worldview statements - Not everyone at TWU has a Christian and/or Canadian background. Be aware of how culture and language can influence meaning!
- Control your temper! Ideas that trigger an emotional response are GOOD because it is challenging something we believe to be true. Reflect on this. DO NOT ACT ON IT RIGHT AWAY!
Whether you are participating in a discussion as part of a course, part of a professional environment, or within your own personal pursuits, it is important to develop an awareness around matters of privacy. Some forums you will participate in will be more private than others – THIS IS AN IMPORTANT CONSIDERATION. Always remember, when we submit an online post, it is immediately visible, so it is important that we always carefully consider who we are talking about and what we post.