Most online courses have areas in which instructors and students can communicate with one another to ask questions or post announcements. The three most common areas for this type of communication in Open SUNY-Powered courses are the course announcement area, course mail, and the public ask a question area (although not all courses utilize this last feature). The nature of the communication will determine which of the following areas is most appropriate. Please find a brief description of each area below:
Course announcements – The course announcements area exists on the main course page and allows faculty to relay timely information to the entire student roster. Announcements are course specific and are archived so that students can see any past announcements they may have missed. Announcements that might be posted to this area may include changes to the course schedule, reminders of upcoming due dates, tips for preparing for exams and other course-related communications. While the majority of course announcements are visible by all students in the course, it is possible that a single announcement be tailored to be visible by only one particular student or a group of students in a course.
Course mail – The course mail function of the Learning Management System is a private area for communication between instructor and student (or student and student). The benefit of utilizing the internal course mail within a course is that all interaction remains within the course and can be easily found and retrieved at a later date if needed. The course mail function is ideal when a student (or instructor) has a question or issue that needs attention that is not appropriate for posting in a public discussion area.
Ask a question – Many online courses include a public area (or multiple public areas) in which students can ask a question regarding course content. This area is often labeled “ask a question” and is typically monitored by the instructor. Because it is a public area, however, students can also see questions that have been posted and often are encouraged by the instructor to help other students. If your course has a public help area such as this, take advantage of it! If you have a question, chances are others in the course may have the same one as well and the public ask a question area may already have the answer you are looking for!