Online communication

  • This page is about how to interact online. For more information about the technology commonly used at Brookes see Online learning technology at Brookes.

    Many of our interactions with other people, both in a professional and an academic context, are now online. This brings benefits, such as greater flexibility and less need to travel, but also challenges, such as not being able to pick up on body language as easily. Many of us may feel comfortable communicating with our friends online, but the skills and awareness needed to communicate online professionally can be very different.

    Online profile and identity

    Be safe and professional

    Know how to keep safe online, such as being cautious about sharing your personal information and ensuring you have secure passwords. Also be aware of how you present yourself on social media; what is your online identity communicating about you to prospective employers? See the ‘Be Safe’ and ‘Be Professional’ sections of Brookes’ Digital Capabilities for Students course on Moodle:

    Email

    Follow their lead

    When contacting your lecturers and other University staff in emails it is best to be formal to start with. Use a formal greeting like ‘Dear Dr Uze’, and proper sentences with no text-speak. If they reply more informally using their first name and greetings like ‘Hi’, you can follow their lead and use these too. For more on the general principles of internet etiquette see this guide:

    Not getting a reply?

    University staff receive a lot of emails. They respond as efficiently as they can, but it is best to contact them in advance as an instant reply is not always possible. Don’t forget other means of communication; most University services have specific contact details on their websites, and lecturers usually set aside a few ‘office hours’ each week to meet with students (either virtually or face-to-face). Also check FAQs, discussion boards, and course information on Moodle as you may find answers to your questions there.

    Online lectures / meetings

    Cameras on

    The preferred norm at Brookes is to have cameras on when participating in online lectures and seminars as it helps create a sense of community. However, we understand that sometimes this isn’t possible due to bandwidth limitations or other pressures. Although it's online, it is still a classroom situation; you might feel comfortable in your pyjamas and having posters with swear words on your walls, but other people may not want to see this. Fortunately, many video conferencing platforms, like Zoom, enable you to have virtual backgrounds which can be useful for hiding a messy room, but they do take more processing power on your devices. See this guide for more on using virtual backgrounds in Zoom:

    Mute your mic in online meetings

    If you’re in a live-streamed meeting, mute your mic when you’re not speaking. No one wants to hear you munching your crisps at maximum volume! It can help to get familiar with the online platform being used before the session so you know where things like the mute button and chat box are. Most online classes at Brookes will take place on Zoom. See Brookes’ guide for getting started with Zoom:

    Chat box - be kind

    Chat functions during online meetings can seem similar to using WhatsApp or other instant messaging. However, it’s a more formal academic environment. Don’t use the chat function to have a private conversation with your friends and don’t post sarcastic comments, as it is difficult to understand tone and intention online. Be kind and courteous to everyone and use the chat function professionally.

    Minimise other communication distractions

    Online meetings involve a number of simultaneous forms of communication, such as the chat box, online polls, and speaking to the group. You may also be tempted to check your email or text a friend at the same time. All these communication streams can quickly become distracting. Try to avoid dividing your attention during live meetings by closing browser windows, turning off notifications, and not checking your phone.

    Discussion boards

    Post early on discussion boards

    Discussion boards may seem slightly old-fashioned. However, they are valuable in online learning as they mean everyone can see and take part in different threads of a discussion. If no one is posting, no one is benefitting, so it can help to start off the discussion. It’s also easier to post early on, as no one has already made a similar point. See this quick overview and more detailed guide on how to get the most out of discussion boards:

    Working in groups remotely

    Use Google Meet or Zoom to meet online

    If your group members are busy and it’s hard to find a good time to meet in person, consider an online meeting instead. As a member of Brookes, you can use your Brookes login details to access the licenced versions of Zoom and Google Meet paid for by the University. You can use these video conferencing platforms to hold your own online meetings for your project groups or to collaborate with friends. See the Brookes’ page on video conferencing for more information:

    Use Google Docs and Google Drive to share work

    Having one document that everyone in the group can work on is often easier and less confusing than each saving your own version. As a Brookes student you have access to Google Docs and a Google Drive to save your work. These can be useful tools as they enable you to share documents with other Brookes students so you can all collaborate and edit the same version of the document. The guide below is a basic introduction to Google Apps at Brookes:

    Managing online group discussions

    Sometimes during online meetings you may be put into breakout rooms to have smaller group discussions. It often takes longer to get settled and ready in these groups. Help the group get going and avoid awkward silences by introducing yourself, welcoming others, and checking everyone has access to the documents. Anything you can do to make a more friendly and focused environment will help the discussion go smoothly.