Earlier today I was speaking with a woman who was interested in finishing her degree online with UMass. However, she had one reservation. She thought since she would be taking her classes online that there would never be an opportunity to connect with her professors when she had questions. I continued to assure her that is far from true. Professors that teach online make themselves readily available for their students to contact them in many ways. Some prefer Skype and others a phone call. Majority of professors prefer email communication as the best way to get a hold of them.
We know contacting professors online can be intimidating, so here are some etiquette tips to help write professional, well-written emails!
Tip #1: Use the subject line. The subject line is the first item that your professor reads, so make sure it contains your main point. Be specific and concise, so they know what the email is about and how important it is. For instance, if you’re asking a question about a certain assignment, be sure to include the assignment name.
Tip #2: Address them appropriately. Don’t start the email with a question, or by asking your professor to do something. Be sure to first greet your professor by name and identify who you are. Professors have a lot of students, so they may need some reminding. Introduce yourself by your full name, as well as the class (and the time of the class) you are taking. Also be sure to finish your email respectfully--thank them for their time and let them know that you appreciate their help.
Tip #3: Think about the tone of your message. Written messages are often misinterpreted. Inflection, hand gestures and other cues associated with oral conversation are missing from emails, so it’s easy for the recipient to misunderstand you. Read your email out loud before you send it or let other people look at it to ensure that the email is polite and appropriate.
Tip #4: Be Brief! No one likes to read long emails, especially when they’re busy and likely receive many emails throughout the course of the day. After introducing yourself, state the purpose of your email plainly and without embellishment. Also, keep your paragraphs small—two sentences long at most. It is much easier to read a bunch of little paragraphs instead of one long one. This will help the professor process what you’re saying.
Tip #5: Proofread! Nothing is more embarrassing than finding typos after you’ve sent your message. Sending written communications with mistakes looks unprofessional and seems like you don’t care about your message. Read and re-read your message multiple times and make sure everything makes sense! Try reading it out loud, as you’re more likely to catch mistakes when you hear them instead of just reading them.
How you communicate with your professors plays a large role in your educational success, so make a good impression!