Communication and Expectations

Clear and frequent communication is important for all students to be successful in classes. Be specific about what you want your students to be able to know and do, when, and how.


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General strategies

Be flexible and understanding

There is a lot of uncertainty about the fall semester. While preparing for the semester, and throughout the semester, be patient and give yourself a break as you are making rapid changes to adapt your course. In addition, be patient and understanding when interacting with your students. Some students may not have a safe home, reliable access to internet, printers, a laptop, or even the time to be online during regular hours if they are taking classes remotely (students may be 12 hours ahead, sick, or caring for children/parents). Please be understanding and work with students to accommodate their learning. Every student has a different situation and needs your support to be successful. Try not to create extra barriers for students in their need to be accommodated by requiring excused absences documentation. Anticipate, plan for, and trust students who report technology issues, symptoms, or needing to care for a sick family member.

Communicate frequently

Communication with students, both those joining a class in-person and those joining remotely, is essential. Communicate with students early through the syllabus and your Canvas course, and provide opportunities for students to contact you with any questions or concerns they may have about the course. Send regular communications to students (weekly emails, announcements, etc.) with important course updates, upcoming deadlines, course recaps, etc.

Communicate expectations for the course overall including assignments and assessments

Communicate course expectations (learning outcomes, time commitment, participation requirements, deadlines, etc.) to students at the beginning of the semester. On the first day of class, discuss what students are accountable for and what they can come to expect from you. Make it a collaborative effort. Be sure to note what is required, what is optional (no penalty for not doing it), and how students can best work with you for support. Review instructions for assignments and assessments to make sure that they are clear.

Share expectations for interacting productively in the classroom environment

Explicitly communicate with students how to interact in the classroom and Zoom settings. This setting (with social distancing if attending classes in person or on Zoom if attending classes remotely) is new for everyone. It is helpful to begin by outlining norms (guidelines) for how to interact in meaningful ways in the classroom environment. Remind students of the expectations in the Oredigger Promise that they signed as well as the information they learned during the COVID-19 training course, “Staying Healthy in a Changing Environment.”

These general strategies are included in the Fall 2020 Recommendations for Teaching. 

Below, we have gathered additional ideas and strategies that can help you think about what expectations you might have for your students and how to clearly and effectively communicate those expectations. If you would like to think more specifically about how to implement these strategies in your course, we invite you to find a time to meet with a Trefny colleague. 

Communication and Expectations Strategies

Create Clear Assignment Instructions

Photograph of a person's feet/legs walking up a flight of stairs

Create Norms for Participation

Sticky note with Norms written on it

Plan Remote Communication

Man with headphones talking through laptop