We talk a lot in this guide about the importance of keeping online students engaged in the course materials; the implications of this engagement are that students who are engaged will persist and also learn from one another. Communication and collaboration are the means to this end. Communication comes in many forms, both synchronous and asynchronous, and employs many tools and formats. What is crucial for the instructor is to determine what communication needs to take place and then select the tools and practices that will ensure students will engage in meaningful collaboration.
This section of the guide discusses best practices for communication and also breaks down some common tools students can use to communicate with the instructor and with each other. Of paramount importance is that the tools should not lead the practice but should be selected because they will help achieve the stated outcome for the activity.
Well-constructed communication practices will encourage collaboration among students and will provide them with a positive model for online communication, a skill that will be helpful both in course work and as a career skill. Setting the pattern and expectations early in the course helps students understand the purposes of communication and enables more positive collaboration throughout the course.