Communicating with Students

Setting the Tone

To foster meaningful interactions with students in an online environment, intentional and thoughtful communication plays an especially important role. Strategies include:

  • Communicate frequently with students so that they are clear on plans going forward and engaged regularly in course activities.
  • Explain the differences between learning online and in-class, how the course will proceed, where to access lectures and other materials or tools, expectations around engagement, and so on.
  • Let students know that you are on their side, how best to contact you, and your policies around communication, including email response time, preferred platforms for asking questions, office hours, and so on.
  • Build community in your classroom by encouraging student to student interactions such as discussions, peer review, and other learning-centred activities.
  • Create a welcoming video for students and give them a chance to see what you look like.


The syllabus is a key document for communicating with students. The Learning-Centred Syllabus Checklist   outlines requirements and best practices for developing an effective syllabus. There are also syllabus templates for the Faculties of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, Engineering, and Human Kinetics  .

Sample language for policies, Senate-required components, and special-circumstances for your syllabus can be found on this working document  .

Communication Tools

Brightspace offers a variety of tools to facilitate interaction and communication between students and instructors including Announcements, Discussions, and Emails. Resources include Brightspace Help  , for how-to documents and videos to help you set up Announcements, Email, Discussions, and other interactive and communication tools.

Instructors and students can also use Microsoft Teams for working on group projects, or for synchronous, virtual office hours. Resources include:

For information on virtual lectures (live or recorded) using Microsoft Teams, please visit Learning-Centred Approaches to Course Planning.