4 min read

How to Encourage Students to Respond to Your Email

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Peak through the window into a classroom and you’ll see students and teachers engaging in important ways. You’ll hear shared greetings, class discussions, small group collaboration, and one-on-one conferences. You’ll see the mood of the classroom through body language and facial expressions. 

Unfortunately, communicating can be infinitely more difficult in an online classroom. As an online teacher, you can't see the non-verbal cues on your students’ faces or hear the tone of their words.

Often, written words are an online teacher's go-to for student communication, but, sometimes, this approach leads to a one-way conversation. Don't be discouraged. Try these tips to open a dialogue.

Tip 1: Don't Make Assumptions

It’s easy to take it personally when a student ignores your emails repeatedly. You might picture a child who is laughing while happily pressing delete without reading or responding to your message. However, picturing the worst case is not productive, and it might be totally off base.

Tip 2: Include the Positive

Include something positive in every communication. Students are more likely to ignore an email if they feel like they’re being attacked or if they think they are in trouble. Before bringing up an issue of concern, point out something positive, even if it’s something small. Praise them for logging in regularly or spending quality time in their lessons.

Tip 3: Offer Choices

You don’t know why the student is not responding. Giving a student choices for how and when to communicate can help them feel empowered to make the choice that’s right for them.

  • Typical business hours might not work for the student’s schedule. If you are available, offering an evening option might be effective.
  • The student’s internet connection might be too weak to do an audio/video call. Try offering a phone number that the student can use to call into a Teams or Zoom session.
  • The student’s home environment might be too loud to have an audio conversation. If your software allows, offer to talk via a live chat window.
  • Typing a long, detailed email might be daunting for a young learner. Again, if your software allows for it, try suggesting that the student email an audio file with questions.

While these options may seem obvious to you, consider that the student may be new to this type of learning environment. One major perk of online learning is flexibility, so offering different methods for responding may be just what the student needs.


Tip 4: Mix It Up

Don’t be a broken record. If you’ve tried a few typed emails with no response, try reaching out a different way. Record and email a video message where the student can see your face and hear your voice. The increased personalization might engage the student and encourage them to respond.

Another way to mix up communication is to word your request to include specific options rather than an open-ended question. Let’s look at some examples.

  • Example 1:“Are you available to meet tomorrow for help?”
    When students read this question, many will not take the time to review their schedule to determine when they are free. If you get a response at all, it might just be a vague, “yes,” which would take a few more communications to complete this plan. The more back and forth required, the more likely it is that the plan will fall through.
  • Example 2: “Let’s meet tomorrow at 11 a.m. or 1 p.m. Which time works best for you?” Here, the student is presented with easy options from which to choose. They can easily draft a short, simple response of their chosen time. Then, a plan is set without additional back and forth. Even if those times don’t work, the wording encourages the student to answer with a specific time that does work.
  • Example 3: Try drafting and sending a Google form with a question similar to Example 2. Include several time options and a space where the student can type questions prior to the meeting.

Tip 5: Include Other Adults

Although students might not see their online teacher, there are usually other supportive adults in their life that they do see regularly. Try including a parent or school mentor on emails. When everyone is on the same page, the adults that do see the student regularly can help strengthen your message.

Whether you’re writing your second email or seventh, don’t give up. Your next communication might be the one that encourages a response and the start of productive collaboration with your student.

Ryan JacksonRyan Jackson is an Instructional Manager for Lincoln Learning Solutions. She has more than 9 years of experience in online education. Ryan spends her free time traveling across the U.S. with her husband and two children.