Effective online communication: a personal perspective

by | May 11, 2021 | Blended learning

Tamara Montrose from the University of Manchester Worldwide Team Dr. Tamara Montrose FHEA is a learning technologist in University of Manchester Worldwide (UMW), working with academic teams to help them design and develop their online courses. This role involves both knowledge and application of pedagogy, and technical expertise in the use of online tools. Prior to joining UMW, Tamara worked for nearly 10 years as an academic and is still active in research.  In this blog post, Tamara reflects on the resource she created for staff on effective online communication, hosted on the ITL website. 


Effective communication with students is important, both in face-to-face and online teaching. It helps ensure that learners are clear on the course requirements and expectations, allows educators to provide support and address queries, and helps foster a connection with learners. A number of studies have indicated that educator presence is one of the most critical factors for ensuring students’ engagement and success in online courses. 

In my role as a learning technologist in University of Manchester Worldwide (UMW), I work with academic teams to help them develop their courses for online delivery. How best to provide a clear educator presence in an online course, and how to build an effective online learning community, are often key concerns: educators may worry about how to ensure they have a strong presence in their course, be unsure which are the best methods for communicating with their students, and worry whether what they are doing is working for them and their learners. 

I created the Effective online communication resource by drawing together some of the good practice developed by colleagues. I hope that it will assist educators by attempting to provide a clear framework that can be used throughout their course, to effectively communicate with their online learners, and use their communications to help build an online learning community. I hope that it will be beneficial for those new to teaching, or new to online teaching in particular, or for educators who are looking for new ways to approach online communication with their students. The principles of effective communication are relevant for both online and blended delivery, but the tools or modes of delivery may differ.

This resource provides practical guidance that can be utilised by educators teaching online to effectively communicate with their students. I provide advice on approaches that can be used:

  • Before the course starts (e.g. online induction or introduction videos to help build educator presence and help students become familiar with the course content),
  • During the course (e.g. course communication plans to provide timely and clear communications to students; formal and informal tutorials for knowledge exchange and to build connections; academic engagement with online activities),
  • After the course ends (e.g. gaining and utilising feedback).

I created this resource based on my experiences working with the PGCert Medical and Health Education team, who had a clear focus on ensuring that they had a strong educator presence, were effectively communicating with their students and building an online learning community in their course. The resource highlights a number of examples of good practice from the structured and supportive approach they used throughout their course.

My aim was to provide a comprehensive guide to support educators in communicating effectively with their students throughout their online course. I wished to highlight approaches that had been used successfully in current online courses at The University of Manchester (e.g. PGCert Medical and Health Education course communications plan and course emails; approaches used by this team to encourage student engagement in tutorials). By using these examples and providing materials that are being used effectively in colleagues’ teaching, I hope that this resource provides guidance and support to educators who wish to develop their online communication, and offers some suggestions on approaches that can be used to effectively communicate with online learners.