How to ask your online teacher for help

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You are not alone when you study online. You can connect and talk to your teacher and classmates. You can do it during an online class or through other means. Support is always there for you.

When you are in an online class:

  1. Read the course description and follow instructions:

    • Look for the FAQs – Read Frequently Asked Questions. Most of your questions will be answered here.
    • Introduce yourself – Tell your facilitator your learning goals and expectations. It will help them teach you better. You can do this on the forum or a page dedicated for introductions (your teacher will give you a link). Otherwise, you can do this via email.
    • Know your e-facilitator – Read your instructor’s bio to know their field of expertise. Note their schedule and contact details.
  2. Know the ways to connect with your e-facilitator

    • Email – Use this for questions or requests that do not need an urgent answer. It is also used for submitting assignments and reports.
    • Skype (or other VoIP or Voice over Internet Protocol tools) – Use this for discussions or if you need a quick answer to a question. Make an appointment if you want to meet with your teacher beyond the class time.
    • Social media – Use this to share resources (e.g. links to websites or relevant articles).
    • Blog – Your instructor may have a regular blog. Read it for additional insights. Leave comments or questions below the write-up.
    • Discussion board – Use this to ask questions or share what you learned. Read your classmates’ views, exchange resources with them, comment and build friendships.
    • Phone – Use this for urgent matters.
  3. Ask for help the right way

    Use the active approach when asking for help. This means doing your own research before asking your instructor. It will help you ask the the exact questions. Use the following phrases:

    • “I have read the assigned reading and understand the topic. I need help in understanding the part about ____.”
    • “I’m not sure why ______.”
    • “Something isn’t making sense, but I’ve tried and I can’t figure out what I’m missing.”
    • “In the notes for our lesson, I read that ______. However, I found in my research that ______. These ideas are not compatible. May I know your views on this?”

    Your teacher will not solve all your problems and think for you. Passive learners usually say:

    • “I don’t know what to do.”
    • “My teacher can’t teach, so I’m lost.”
    • “I can’t do this. I just need to get this done.”
    • “This subject makes no sense.”

    (Active and passive approach definition and samples adapted from The right way to ask your teacher for help, Jay B.).

  4. Make a personal learning plan

    Share your learning goals with your instructor. They can help you make a plan to learn better. A personal learning plan will make it clear to you which areas you should focus on first and the type of learning activities you should do.

Article updated July 7, 2020.
Sources: 7 tips to form relationships in online learning, Judi Muhammad, Ashford University; The right way to ask your teachers for help, Jay B., Signet Education; How to reach out to your instructor for online courses, Abree Murch, All accessed September 20, 2017.

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