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Tips for Effective Communication With Your Online Communications’ Professor

Tips for Effective Communication with Your Online Communications’ Professor
One of the most important aspects of your graduate, strategic communications online program will be the relationships you develop with your faculty members. These relationships can positively impact your academic performance, expose you to novel concepts and professional contacts, and develop into long-lasting friendships.

Many of my students have stayed in contact with me for well over twenty years; some have become co-consultants on projects, research assistants, clients and professional colleagues. But all positive, lasting relationships start with a strong foundation in communication between the student and professor. Below are four easy tips on how to facilitate this relationship in online courses.

1. Be an Engaged Online Student
Your professors are here to inform, support, guide, mentor, develop and challenge you throughout your program. When you receive instructor feedback, understand that it is provided solely for your benefit and learning. Remember that defensive students are not teachable, and this poses a challenge for faculty who strive to create engaging learning environments.

Ask yourself:

  1. Am I teachable?

  2. Am I willing and ready to learn?

  3. Am I willing to accept feedback, recommendations and correction?

  4. Am I willing to make any necessary changes to ensure my academic success?

The answers to these questions will reveal your academic readiness. If you can’t answer “yes” to every question above, your professors cannot provide mentoring, coaching and encouragement. Having these open and honest conversations can go a long way in building trust, rapport and mutual understanding.

2. Ask Your Professor Questions
When you have questions about any aspect of your online courses, I encourage you to contact your professors sooner rather than later. While I understand it can sometimes feel a bit intimidating to email or call an instructor, Purdue faculty members welcome questions and appreciate students who take a proactive approach to their studies. We want to hear from you!

3. Be Open to Phone Communication
Remember, too, that while email is a convenient mode of online communication, telephone and Skype calls offer opportunities for more personal and efficient interaction. Call your professors when you need more detailed clarification or guidance.

4. Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Clarification
Should you ever have concerns about grades or feedback, contact your online instructor right away. Don’t allow emotions or misunderstandings to fester; prompt communication will almost always resolve potential issues. Remember, faculty are here to help and support you; your success is our top priority.

Remember that your professors are accessible, approachable and eager to communicate with you. Your rich experiences, backgrounds and contributions add tremendous value to every classroom. As online faculty, we enjoy and appreciate the opportunity to learn from our students just as our students learn from us. It is this collaborative, “think tank” approach to education that makes Purdue’s Strategic Communications masters’ program unique, inclusive and innovative.

Learn More
Dr. Debra Davenport is an online faculty member for Purdue’s online Master of Science in Communication degree program. The program can be completed in just 20 months and covers numerous topics critical for advancement in the communication industry, including crisis communication, social media engagement, focus group planning and implementation, survey design and survey analysis, public relations theory, professional writing, and communication ethics.

About the Author
Debra B. Davenport, Ph.D., is the president and chief executive of Davenport Public Relations, a full-service communications firm with offices in Los Angeles and Phoenix. Debra has worked extensively on both sides of the PR business – as chief PR counsel and also as a journalist, reporter, TV and radio host, celebrity stylist, and media resource. She has been a recurring guest expert on the Dr. Phil show, and has served as the corporate spokesperson for the Panasonic global brand. She has been featured on FOX Television, Style Network, Yahoo, CBS Money Watch, VH1, KSYY-FM and CNN - and in such publications as Entertainment Weekly, A-List International, Elle, Marie Claire (UK), London Entertainment, In Style, Us Weekly, People StyleWatch, Los Angeles Magazine and the Los Angeles Times. Debra is a member of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, Entertainment Publicists Professional Society, the Public Relations Society of America, Institute for Public Relations, International Special Events Society and other professional associations. Her research interests include branding, memetics, semiotics, media psychology, and the study of PR as a social science. Debra has served on the undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral faculties of numerous US universities since 1983.

*The views and opinions expressed are of the author and do not represent the Brian Lamb School of Communication.