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Need Help from Online Professors? How to Go About It.

Aug 3, 2009 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Education.org Columnist | 1 Comments

Everyone needs extra help sometimes. In a traditional college, it’s not always hard to find it—professors have regularly scheduled office hours, and you can ask for extra time for a conversation with a teacher after class. In an online college, it can sometimes be more difficult to get an instructor’s attention—you can’t just go into the office and sit down with him. You’ll have to send emails and hope for the response you need.

This is true outside of college as well

When you take an online course, you may need to get in touch with the instructor for extra help or questions. Some online courses are instructor-moderated and some are self-taught, however.  If you’re taking a self-taught class, you may need to make sure you can get in touch with a company representative in case you have questions that aren’t answered in class documentation. Here are a few ways you can get the help you need.


First: have you looked everywhere else?

Online professors have a million things to do. Maintaining communication with all their students, grading assignments and designing engaging lessons for an online audience is more than a full-time job. Chances are, if you ask questions that have obvious answers in the student handbook, syllabus, or elsewhere, they’ll get annoyed. So be sure what you’re asking doesn’t have an answer somewhere else before you get in touch.

Check the student forums

Check the forums and emails from other students and your professor. It’s likely that other students have had this problem as well, and have had their questions answered for them. Before you go to your professor, it may be a good idea to post your question online in the student forums. If another student has had the same problem, you may be able to get help that way without needing to ask your instructor.


Disorganized Desk

Getting the attention of an online instructor can be more of a challenge than getting extra time with a traditional professor—but it doesn’t have to be.

 

 

Ask questions early

If you wait until after an assignment or test has been given, it’s likely your professor will have his or her hands full with questions. Try not to ask during these high-traffic times, if it’s at all possible. Try to anticipate problems and ask when your professor isn’t deluged with questions from other students, and chances are he or she will have more time to give your question attention.

Be polite at all times

When you want something from someone, you’ll never get anywhere by being rude.  Sometimes emails can come off that way, however, even when you don’t mean to be. Before sending your emails, re-read them several times to make sure your tone isn’t too brusque or angry. Sometimes it’s best to let an email sit for an hour or even a day and then re-read it to make sure the tone isn’t “off.” It’s much easier to miscommunicate tone by email than it is in person.

Don’t expect special treatment

Professors care about their students and want to help them, but not at the expense of seeming unfair or giving certain students preferential treatment over others. It’s best to know when you’re asking for help you’re entitled to—and when you’re asking for too much. A question about certain subject area might be expected—but an extension on a big paper might be a little too much to ask, depending on your situation and whether you’ve asked before. 

Don’t be impatient—but do remind them

Some online instructors are better at keeping in touch with students than others. Your online instructor should respond to your question within 24 hours provided you didn’t ask at 5 PM on a Friday—don’t inundate her with emails until she answers you. But if you don’t get a response within three or four days, send a polite email reiterating your question if needed. Sometimes professors get bogged down with work, and yours might have missed your email the first time.

Getting the attention of an online instructor can be more of a challenge than getting extra time with a traditional professor—but it doesn’t have to be.  Be polite, persistent, and mindful of what you’re asking and whether it’s fair, and you shouldn’t have any trouble getting any issues you have resolved. Do as much as you can online, but bear in mind that you may need to ask for a phone call or in-person meeting if possible. With these tips, you shouldn’t have a hard time getting the extra advice and help you need.

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Comments:

There is also instaedu.com

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