Although often only viewed as an administrative task, email communications are a hidden gem for online instructors who are looking for an opportunity to foster student connection and engagement in their courses. The ways in which online instructors reply to a student’s email can help or hinder all other efforts – course preparation, planned interactions, the perfectly crafted welcome message, among others – to develop genuine connections with students. By reframing how email is viewed and responses are crafted, exploring different approaches for responding to students’ questions, and practicing human-first viewpoints in the absence of communication markers or visual cues, online instructors will log off from this virtual workshop with a foundational toolkit for handling email communications with distance students.


Emails can provide a great opportunity for online instructors to genuinely connect with their students. By utilizing the examples and approaches from this workshop, online instructors can make strides towards fostering online student engagement through informal, unplanned, and asynchronous email communications.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this workshop, the participant will be able to:

  • Develop a toolkit that can help in responding to student emails, rooted in human-first communication and with the goal of fostering connectedness.
  • Describe the importance of informal and unplanned interactions with students and their impact on student engagement.

Workshop Structure

This workshop is facilitated virtually via Zoom and includes example-based instruction, discussion, and interactive practice opportunities.

Time Commitment

60 minutes in workshop, plus pre-workshop preparation

Expectations and Participation

Participants are expected to:

  • Arrive prepared to participate
  • Actively engage in workshop activities, including discussions and hands-on practice


Chelsea Fancher

Pre-Workshop Preparation

Attendees are encouraged to bring a short email example they have received that includes a student request and contextual information (for example, “can I have an extension because my child is sick”).