Instructor Response Time for Online Courses: Requirements & Expectations

Instructor: Joelle Brummitt-Yale

Joelle has taught middle school Language Arts and college academic writing. She has a master's degree in education.

In this lesson, we will explore why it is important that online course instructors have policies for response time, and we will discuss guidelines and expectations for those response times.

Why Should Instructors Have Policies About Response Times?

Imagine taking a seated class and only finding the instructor in the classroom, ready to teach 50% of the time. Or imagine trying to visit an instructor for extra help during office hours and not being able to find her. Because the learning platform that an online course is offered in is the classroom for the class, students need to know when they can communicate with their instructor. Providing this information helps your students and you as the instructor in a variety of ways.

  • Community and solid teacher-student relationships are essential to learning. Most students learn the most and are able to learn most easily when they are part of a learning community that exchanges ideas and dialogues about course content. And they become engaged and connected to a course when they believe their instructors care about their learning. Both community and teacher-student relationships are built through communication.
  • Clear expectations are also important for student learning and for the effective and efficient management of a course by the instructor. If students don't know what is expected of them, how can they meet course objectives? And if they don't know what to expect from their instructors, how can they effectively communicate with them? Providing students with clear expectations about how and when you will communicate with them and when they can expect you to respond when they contact you keeps everyone on the same page and usually helps avoid miscommunication.

Best Practices

While there are many different ways you can go about setting expectations for your response times and building strong relationships within your class and with each of your students, there are a few best practices that are recommended by experienced online instructors and their professional organizations.

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