In the rush to start the semester we often focus on the learning aspects of the course, getting students into the homework system, and making sure everyone has the correct book or calculator.  But other aspects of the course are important for making sure we as educators are set up for success for the rest of the semester. One aspect of this is training our students to use email appropriately. Knowing who, why and the reasons a student is emailing improves our ability to answer quickly and effectively.  Here are a few rules you can use with your students:

  1. All emails must contain the course name and the day and time the course meets in the subject line.
  2. If students have a question about a problem, they must reference the specific problem number or include a screenshot of the problem as well as a screenshot of their work.
  3. All emails must include the student’s name as it appears on the roster.

Inside Higher Ed has a great article on email protocol you can share with your students

Also, don’t forget to include in your syllabus your communication boundaries! Letting students know how long it will take to respond and when you will respond prevents multiple emails seeking a response ASAP.   This is especially important in online classes where students are often working at odd hours. Letting online students know when you will also likely be online helps facilitate communication.

Additionally, if you are using an online discussion board be sure to include a list of appropriate questions to be emailed, such as questions about student grades.  Students can be directed to post general course questions and homework questions to the discussion forum.   Providing students with clear directions on where and when they can seek information cuts down on the number of duplicate emails all asking the same questions.