Communicating with Technology

Learning Outcomes

  • Describe proper communication and the use of netiquette in online learning environments

Asynchronous and Synchronous Communication

Let’s begin with a few definitions. First let’s talk about the two types of communication that can be used in an online class:

  • Asynchronous communication is when you, your classmates, and your instructor participate in online discussions at different times, rather than in real time. When you send your instructor a question via email, participate in an online discussion forum, or post to a blog for your class, you are communicating asynchronously.
  • Synchronous communication happens in real time, like having a class discussion in an in-person classroom or talking to a teacher after class. But you can communicate synchronously in an online environment too, through the use of tools like online chat; Internet voice of video calling systems like Skype or Google Hang-outs; or through the use of web-based video conferencing software like WebEx, Zoom, or Collaborate.

Try It

decorative imageLearning Is Social

We know that learning is a social experience. It’s not all about what a student can read in a textbook. Nor is it all about information that an instructor can impart through a lecture. Based on the community of inquiry (CoI), students gain knowledge from the course content and interacting with the instructor and other students.

There are many different ways students communicate with the instructor and other students in an online course including verbally during live sessions, via text in discussions, or even audio messages as responses to course assignments. Furthermore, some online courses include group assignments that require students to collaborate using Google docs or meet using video conferencing. Given the amount of interaction in online courses, good communication skills are essential in any online course. In order to successfully communicate in online courses, students need to be familiar with netiquette guidelines.


Watch this video to learn more about netiquette guidelines.

You can access a transcript of “Netiquette for Online Classes” (link opens in new window).

Based on the definitions provided, synchronous and asynchronous communication requires attention to varying netiquette guidelines.

Netiquette Guidelines for Email and IM

Online students should be aware that text-based messages (asynchronous) such as email, chat, instant messages, and discussion boards can be misinterpreted due to the lack of visual cues and in-person interaction. Professor Evan Abbey offers some strategies to utilize when communicating in a text-based exchange. While his advice is geared toward teachers, it still applies to students.

  • Grammar and punctuation should be consistent with rules of English. For example, capitalize the first letter of a sentence, use correct spelling, use punctuation marks, etc.
  • Do not capitalize all letters when writing as all capitalized letters means you are shouting.
  • Refrain from using abbreviations or use them sparingly because your reader may not be able to decipher what they mean. (For example, TIA—Thanks in Advance)
  • Due to the chat nature of IM, the environment has its own language. You will learn that language over time, but please remember that your educational IMs should remain just as professional as your business emails.
  • Email creates an electronic trail, so don’t send anything electronically that could come back to haunt you or damage your academic trajectory.[1]

Here are some guidelines to follow that are specific to students:

  • Always follow the format given by your professor/s in writing the subject line. This format gives them a headstart of what to expect in your letter.
  • Include your course, year, and section and your issue/concern/suggestion in the subject line. Your Instructor may teach multiple courses and will have many students, so the more specific you are, the better and easier it will be for your professor.
  • When you write, be sure to be brief, concise, and direct while being detailed. Don’t make the reader scroll your entire message just to get a grasp of your concern.

Email Netiquette

Watch the following video to understand netiquette guidelines for emails.

Synchronous Communication


Video conferencing software applications like Zoom, Collaborate, or WebEx are designed to support larger groups than Skype. They can provide a virtual experience that closely replicates an on-campus classroom. Many videoconferencing applications include useful features like the ability to share desktops, the ability to share files, online chat windows, and break-out rooms for small group work so your computer can truly become a window into a live classroom where students and instructors can interact and collaborate at the same time.

Etiquette for synchronous class sessions

Check out this brief video on etiquette for synchronous class sessions.


netiquette: guidelines for ethical and appropriate behavior in online environments, including interactive learning spaces

  1. Abbey, Evan. "Types of Communication." Online Learning for Iowa Educators, 1 December 2016,