Centre for Teaching and Learning

Centre for Teaching and Learning
Centre for Teaching and Learning

Communications Icon: word bubble and question mark icons with "Communications" written over itCommunications Guide

Whatever the circumstances, one of the best things you can do is keep lines of communication open. This guide provides resources and strategies for accomplishing two key recommendations around communicating course plans: (1) Clarify expectations; and (2) communicate early, often, and through consistent channels.


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Set Expectations for Students

What does success look like in your course? Establish what students will need to do in order to succeed, and structure your communication plan around that information. For example, what will students do on weekly basis? How are they expected to participate? When are major assignments due and what constitutes effective performance?

Rubrics are an effective way of creating and communicating course expectations to students. Develop a rubric for each assignment, test/quiz, or other assessment activity. Plan to share developed rubrics to students as part of your communication plan.

Coming Soon icon: image of a stop watchComing soon…how to develop a rubric


Set Expectations FOR You

Students look to you for guidance. But you can’t be available all the time. Establish your own expectations and routines around how you plan to facilitate the course. Clarify how students can contact you, through what channels they can direct their questions they can direct their questions, and on what schedule they might expect your responses.

Coming Soon icon: image of a stop watchComing soon… strategies for managing your communications load


Survey Students

Get to know your students better by surveying or polling them early on. Get consensus around preferred communication channels. Get to know what challenges or obstacles students may face or anticipate. Ask them what their expectations or goals are for the term ahead. Surveying students at the outset sets the tone for mutual understanding and information flow. Read more in our Inclusive Community Start Here Guide.

Connect to tech icon: image of a gear and a wrenchConnect to Tech: Survey your students using the Surveys Tool in OnQ, Microsoft Forms, or Qualtrics


Orient Students to the Course

The course syllabus stands as the formal document for orienting students to the course. Compliment this orientation by recording a welcome video, writing a welcome announcement post/email, and/or creating an orientation page on your OnQ course site. Consider this orientation synonymous to the first day of class when you might typically outline:

  • Key assessments and due dates
  • Required/recommended resources
  • What students will learn or discover by taking the course
  • What they should expect (see set expectations for your students)

Connect to tech icon: image of a gear and a wrenchConnect to Tech: Record using Zoom, Screencast-o-matic, or Quicktime (available on Mac only) and upload the video to Content in onQ. Create a narrated or annotated PowerPoint presentation.

The following video offers a tour of an example OnQ course site highlighting different ways students were oriented to the course. Strategies like making use of the Announcements tool in OnQ can be used throughout the term to offer weekly guidance on the tasks students should be focusing on. For example, send out a checklist or to do list at the start of each week outlining tasks such as readings, discussions, and participation components.

Communicate Regularly with Your Teaching Team

Devise a plan for connecting with your teaching team throughout the term – set a meeting schedule, select collaborative technologies, and establish lines of communication for the team that you can tap into throughout the term.  

Be prepared to spend time facilitating conversations about your course with your TAs and other team members on an ongoing basis – conversations such as course plans for the term, how to support students, marking keys and rubrics, and any arising issues or challenges the team may be facing.

Connect to tech icon: image of a gear and a wrenchConnect to Tech: Collaborate with your team using Microsoft Teams and collaborative authoring tools in the Office 365 Suite such as Word or PowerPoint Online


Manage Collaboration Between Students

If your course relies on contact between students, for example group work or small group discussions, consider how you will facilitate student-to-student collaboration within this new context.

  • Take the time to explain why student collaboration is an important part of the course by linking the activity to course goals/outcomes.
  • Rather than prescribing a specific tool, make recommendations of helpful tools students might use to collaborate (for example, Microsoft Teams) - then give them flexibility to use what works for them.
  • Kick off group work by having groups develop their own rubric that outlines how the group will measure their own success (e.g. what does effective group work look like to us?). The rubric they develop will help them set their own expectations for guiding engagement.

Connect to tech icon: image of a gear and a wrenchConnect to Tech: Recommend to students that they use collaborative tools and documents such as those found in the Office 365 Suite - to which all students, staff, and faculty have access

Both the Student Engagement and Inclusive Community Start Here Guides have additional strategies on group work

Host Online Office Hours

Stick with a classic in a new format: online office hours are a great way to connect with students and offer support. Email students to let them know the specific date and time you will be available online. Be consistent with the days and times you are available for office hours where possible.

Connect to tech icon: image of a gear and a wrenchConnect to Tech: Use the Chat tool in onQ to hold Virtual Office Hours or start a Chat in Microsoft Teams 


Resources and References

Association of College & University Educators - Online Teaching Toolkit.

Humanizing Remote Teaching - a webinar by presenters Dr. Klodiana Kolomitro and Wanda Beyer 

Indiana University - Keep Teaching Strategies.


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The Transforming Teaching Toolkit by the Centre for Teaching & Learning, Queen’s University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.