Using Email in the Classroom
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Using Email in the Classroom

Why use email:

  • Professional uses
    • Journal article submission
    • Jury requests/article transmission
    • Correspondence
  • Teaching uses
    • Extends scope of "office hours"
    • Place e-mail address on syllabus but include guidelines
    • Quiet students more likely to ask questions
    • Questions can be shared with entire class

How to make email more useful:

  • Provide a context
    • Use a meaningful subject line
    • Quote excerpts of the message to which you are responding
    • Be certain to retain the date of the message to which you respond
  • Keep messages concise
    • Full sentences not necessary
    • Keep paragraphs short and to the point
    • Include attachments for fuller explanation
  • Inflection
    • Use asterisks for light emphasis: *phone*
    • For strong emphasis: >phone<
    • Avoid all capital letters: DON'T SHOUT
    • Use gestures for clarity, but use sparingly

Course Dynamics:

  • Students are forced to articulate in writing
    • Strengthens thought process; problem solving
    • Allows for more thoughtful questions/responses
    • Provides written record of question
  • Engages a broader range of students into discussion
    • Provides time to plan out what is said
    • Barriers in traditional classroom are absent
  • Offers direct communication between student and teacher/ student and student
  • Spontaneity of question: no need to wait until class
  • Online courses may attract a more motivated student population

Teaching Applications:

  • Office hours
  • Group/individual discussions
  • Distributing assignments/announcements
  • Share writing for peer editing
  • Link classes
    • Other sections
    • Other universities
  • Listservs, email, discussion boards: asynchronous communication
  • Chat, Instant Messenger: synchronous communication


  • Listservs
    • Messages mailed to all subscribers
    • Accessed through e-mail account
    • Messages can be saved without printing or downloading
    • Most lists archived for future reference


Some faculty members hesitate to include their e-mail addresses on the syllabus because they feel that too ready an access may lead to abuse. One solution, provided by a faculty member at the workshop on email, is to establish email guidelines for students. Specify under what circumstances/for what reasons email contact should be made, how often you will check your mail, how long a response time students might expect, etc. While such guidelines may not prevent abuse, they will certainly suggest to students that there are limitations as to what email access to the professor will provide.

Gestures in email are combinations of characters that display a particular emotion or response, as a wink ; )
a frown : ( or surprise : - . Because the person reading the message cannot see the sender's expression or hear a voice inflection, s/he may not realize that the writer is being facetious, ironic, etc; gestures help clarify the intent. But temper the use of such devices as they can be overdone and/or inappropriate for a particular audience.

F2F = face to face

Last Updated: 7/18/2014