Research (and our experience) shows that early contact with learners is an important factor in learner success and retention. For this reason, we ask that you make initial contact with your students preferably a few days before the course opens. You may do this via email from the Faculty Service Centre or by telephone. Telephone contact (following email attempts) is important if learners are not logging on to the course website within the first week.
In correspondence courses, learners are typically slower to get started. Please ensure you have made contact with all of your students by the end of the first month. Most learners who withdraw will make their decision within the first month – since most of their tuition fees for the course will be returned to them. For some learners who are “on the fence” with regard to withdrawal, early and supportive contact during this first month can influence their decision and provide them with additional information on which to base their decision. This is an important part of supporting learners in distance courses.
It is expected that distance education instructors will contact students early in the course (or prior to the course in some cases). This can be done by email (via the Faculty Service Centre) or telephone depending on preference. Details of this Welcome Message should include:
- Your contact info
- Pertinent details regarding getting started
- A list of materials required for the course
Opportunity for both email and telephone contact with you is very important to learners. However, you can certainly highlight your preferences and your approach to making yourself available to your students. This is typically done via:
- A Welcome Message (see above)
- An introductory bio page that you can prepare for inclusion in the print course package or on the course website
- Set “office hours” each week when students may contact you by phone, skype, chat or email with questions. You can specify your preferred mode of contact and establish your own boundaries for contact outside those hours.
Careful planning and communication regarding how and when you will respond to email enquiries will go a long way towards setting up a manageable arrangement.
- Some instructors find it helpful to develop FAQs to commonly asked questions about the course content – in this way this can be distributed to the whole group (via email attachment) or to individuals as needed.
- Learners will often email instructors at the beginning of a course, prior to assignment due dates and around exam time. Many of their questions relate to course requirements, assignment requirements, grading structure, and exam issues. If your course is online, providing clear and concise information regarding these issues on the course website will help reduce the volume of individual emails. At the very least, you can use the discussion forums to clarify these issues.
- Note: If you need to contact students via long distance, please contact OLT for a calling card number at 604.827.4494.