Tips for Communicating with Your Instructors

Todd Lawton, Academic Adviser

Whether you have a question about an assignment, or want to understand comments an instructor has provided on your work, good communication with your instructor is key to your success in any course.

At a distance, we know communication can be more challenging so we’d like to share some tips to help you communication effectively with your instructors no matter where you live!

  • Use your course syllabus as a guide. You will receive a course syllabus on the first day of your course via ANGEL, Penn State’s online course environment. In the courses’ syllabi, instructors will share the best ways and times to communicate with them. Examples of communication styles include e-mail, telephone, instant messenger, or through ANGEL. You can also find office hours for your course in the course syllabus. And remember, every course syllabus is different.
  • Before you communicate with your instructor, be sure to take time to plan what you want to communicate and think about how best to communicate it. For example, if you have a question about a homework assignment, it may be a question that other students have as well. You can post your question to the ANGEL message board so that everyone can benefit from it. Or, if you have a question about a grade you have received and you’d like to communicate this privately, you may want to consider sending your instructor an e-mail.
  • When you contact your instructor, we know you are eager to hear a response, but give your instructor time to respond. Remember that there are many students in a course who also have questions, and your instructor may be teaching more than one course. Communicating with students is a high priority for our instructors, so after you have hit the “send button,” be patient—you will receive a reply.
  • Communicate a situation early. For example, if you are going to be away for a week on a business trip, you will want to let your instructor know as soon as you can so that you can work together to create a plan.
  • Approach each instructor as an individual. A communication method that works well with one instructor, may not be the best way to communicate with another instructor.