Frequency of Contact for Online Courses?

At the start of a new academic term, I always wonder how often I should e-mail / tweet / message students in my online courses.

How much e-contact do students expect (or even want) from their instructors?

close up of someone checking a smartphone

morgueFile photo from http://mrg.bz/meux3M

Typically, at the start of each new week, I post a description of the activities, assignments, and deadlines to the news forum in each class and automatically broadcast that message to all enrolled students’ campus e-mail addresses. I will admit, too, that I have taught certain courses so many times that I have standard messages (some of them several paragraphs long with embedded images) ready to go out for week 5 or week 10.

It’s easy for a student to delete and/or ignore these messages, however, and some might not even check their University accounts regularly. If this were a traditional, face-to-face class, students who attended would see and hear from me two to three times each week. I would probably remind them Monday, Wednesday, and Friday about a Saturday deadline.

I don’t want to be too annoying, either. Am I going overboard with an e-mail, a tweet, and a text 24-48 hours before a deadline? Or is such redundancy key to reach as many students as possible and to make them feel connected? It’s so easy to feel alone and isolated when you’re sitting in front of a screen typing up discussion replies!

Of course, these aren’t new questions. Research goes back well over a decade regarding e-mail contacts, but I have to wonder if different avenues, particularly ones that easily reach students’ cell phones, make a difference.

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