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Responding to Student’s Emails…

I wish I knew…
We teach digital natives with the expectation of being responded to instantaneously, especially if we teach online or partially online. That means we are “on” 24/7. I was conditioned to respond ASAP to students that were emailing me. Finally we had a department meeting to discuss the expectations of teaching online. One of the guidelines was to put into the course syllabus that we would respond to all emails within 24 business hours. This takes pressure off of us as the professor, yet sets the expectations for the students to help pace themselves and not wait for the last minute. This has helped me tremendously, not feeling obligated to respond immediately. I hope this helps you too!!

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5 comments to Responding to Student’s Emails…

  • Andrea Mosenson

    Hi Susan:
    I agree that students expect us to respond ASAP when they email us. And, of course, they always wait until the last minute to email us. Letting students know you will respond within an appropriate time frame (and not necessarily right away), is good practice for everyone.


  • Ray E. Skrabut

    Susan and Andrea:

    I would like to respectfully disagree with respect to responding to students’ emails. I also have a note on each syllabus that says I will respond within 24 hours. However, students today are tethered to their electronic devices (as am I) and our student population is, for the most part, not dedicated to college study. Many have jobs, are responsible for siblings, and/or are caregivers. I respond using my smartphone, my iPad, or my PC or ultrabook. Relatively immediate communication benefits both the student and the instructor. Within two weeks of the beginning of each semester my students learn that trivial matters can be dealt with shortly before or after classes, while email makes it easier for them to express their absenses due to sickness or family emergencies.

    Oh yes, and problems with the class material.

    It works for me.

    • Hi,

      I think if you are able to respond quickly to emails, then it most likely will benefit the students. I agree with everyone else, that students shouldn’t expect immediate answers, as just like them, we also have other jobs and other responsibilities that we need to take care of, and so we can’t be attached to an email screen all day. Sometimes I get to checking my email multiple times a day, sometimes I do not. I let my student’s know that they should expect a response within 24-48 hours. I make sure to check my email once a day, so if I check it in the morning, and a student emails me right after that, and then the next day, I first check it at night, I am still checking it once a day, but the 24 hours time is not enough to cover that, so I add the -48 hours in there. No matter what, students will always ask last minute questions. I am giving an exam on Wednesday, and it is right now Monday, and I have received no emails for questions or meetings for this exam. I can almost guarantee, I will get something tomorrow night.

  • Hi Ray:
    I respect your opinion and thoughts regarding how you respond to student emails. I personally think it is unrealistic for students to expect their professors to respond immediately to their emails. I would never leave my computer or iPad if this was the case (okay, this is a bit dramatic, but you get my point). I also want my students to be more responsible for their actions. For example, if they need help with an assignment, they cannot email me the day before it is due to ask for help, especially when they had two weeks to work on the assignment. I always get back to my students within a reasonable amount of time to answer their emails, but rarely is it moments after they email me. This is what works for me and my students understand this is how I operate. We are all on the same page this way!

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I appreciate hearing other professor’s perspectives on how they work with their students and what works well for them.

  • Susan Tietje

    Hello Ray and Andrea,

    Thank you for your feedback. I feel that by responding immediately to some students opens the door for a constant flow of emails throughout the course, which I am here for, but even the micro questions that they should know or be able to figure out.

    Please understand that while I have the parameters of email on the course syllabus, I do my best to return student emails ASAP. This also comes after I had a student email me eight times with in an eight hour period as I had not been able to research her question about the grade. I also require that my students send “formal” emails to me (and their other professors) 😉 and I always respond in a formal email. This will help the students tremendously, and I tell them that, in their future careers when addressing their future supervisors until they understand the culture of the company/school they are working for as not to offend anyone.
    And yes, it alleviates the last minute questions before a deadline.