Communicating with students

The information on this page was prepared in Spring 2020 for the transition to emergency remote teaching. In preparation for Fall 2020, Duke Learning Innovation has developed a new resource, Flexible Teaching, which features a series of guides for course design, delivery, and materials. Please refer to as you prepare for your fall course(s).

Communicate early and often

Let students know about changes or disruptions as early as possible, even if all the details aren’t in place yet, and let them know when they can expect more specific information. Be sure you have a working communication method to reach each student, or have them confirm that they can access the standard course communication tools.

Set expectations

Let students know how you plan to communicate with them, and how they should communicate with you, particularly for time-sensitive communications. Tell students both how often you expect them to check their email, and how quickly they can expect your response. Have a consistent communication strategy to avoid confusion: We recommend using the Sakai Announcements+Email tool so that any announcements will be archived for later access.

Hold online office hours using Zoom once or twice a week

Schedule times that work for your students (consider their locations/timezones). Publish the times along with the Zoom link prominently in your course site. Enable Zoom’s waiting room feature if privacy is need when consulting with students.

Manage your communications load

Consider keeping track of frequently asked questions and sending those replies out to everyone, or building an FAQ/information page in Sakai as a student reference. Use Sakai Announcements to both send information to students as well as archive it within Sakai. 

Be clear and consistent with course information

Organize all content related to your course in a structured set of lessons, folders or links within Sakai. Tell students where those materials are, but also update your syllabus and post that. Ensure that assignment and activity instructions are explained in detail, and posted for reference. Make sure due dates are consistent wherever they are posted. Consider using the Sakai calendar or other straightforward method to collect and make clearly visible all tasks, course activities and deadlines for each week of class.

Group text apps

If you already use such an application in your course (Slack, MS Teams, WeChat, GroupMe, etc.), or if you know your students already all use such a tool and it would be easy to reach them that way, it can be the best option for communicating. However, we don’t recommend trying to establish use of a new tool during an emergency.