Messages to students having difficulties

"I shouldn’t have to take this class"
Welcome aboard! I am so excited to hear that you have so much knowledge on the topics we will be exploring. I know it can be frustrating when you feel that a class is a waste of your time, but I view your presence as a blessing for myself and your classmates. Rather than look at this course as a waste of time, try to look at it as a way to expand your thinking and share what you know with others!
I look forward to our interactions!

"Have you seen the syllabus? Did you see all the work we have to do?"
It sure does look like a lot of work to complete in such a short amount of time, doesn’t it? Let me assure you, each activity you will do throughout the course is designed to be productive and useful to you in your life, and there are no “busy work” activities. My previous students have found that as they worked through the activities, that they were not as daunting as they appeared at first. We are all here to support each other and our collective knowledge, and I look forward to your thoughts!

"I hope this class isn’t as bad as the last online course I took"
I am so sorry to hear that your last encounter with online learning was less than ideal! I We have all, at one point or another, encountered a poorly designed online course. I wonder if you would be willing to share with us what made your last online course so bad. I’m always curious about ways that I can improve my course, and hearing from a student what make a course less than ideal helps me make changes to my own. I look forward to hearing your insights!

Students not turning in assignments
Great job working with your team on the two assignments. I noticed that you still have not submitted them to the assignment dropbox (located in the assignment instructions on [insert LMS platform here]). Even though these were both group assignments, it is important that you each submit them individually to  [insert LMS platform here]. Just in case you need help submitting the assignments, here is a link to the instructions on how to do this [Insert Link here]. Please contact me if you need further help submitting them.

A student submits the assignments privately to the instructor but skips the discussion postings
Congratulations for completing this well-crafted response to the discussion prompt for module 1. This course is designed so that much of your learning will take place as you read and reply to the thoughts and questions of your classmates on the discussion boards. Equally important, however, is that your classmates have an opportunity to learn from you by reading and replying to your thoughts and your questions. Please help us all learn together by going into the discussion for this module and posting your thoughtful response from which other students can learn.
Please let me know if you need further instructions on how to navigate to the board to post your work.
(David Wee, fellow CC classmate, posted with permission)

Student wants to use personal email
I completely understand how difficult it can be to manage multiple email accounts, unfortunately, FERPA (Family Educational Rights to Privacy Act) strongly encourages that we communicate using our school accounts to protect your privacy. One of the ways I have been able to make the management easier for myself is to set up all of my accounts on my mobile phone and tablet computer, that way I get a notification when I receive a new message, and I never miss one!
Here are the instructions to help you do that: [insert link to instructions for mail platform]
Another option is to have your school email forwarded to your personal email address. Those instructions can be found here: [insert link to instructions for mail platform]
I hope this helps!

Student submits assignments, but does not participate in the discussion board
You have submitted some terrific work that has demonstrated your clear understanding of the topic. Well done! Next step is to share your understandings with the rest of the group. Online discussion is an important component of this course and to online learning. The perk of discussions is that we all benefit by learning from each other through sharing findings, thoughts and ideas, asking questions, and clarifying understandings. The first time one posts to a discussion board can be a bit nerve-wracking. I know I was a basket-case first time around, but once I started posting and then receiving responses from my classmates, I realized I was really a part of the group and my experience improved ten-fold.
With this next module I’d like to see you join in the discussions and be a vocal part of the class. To help you start, read the Discussion Rubric on the Need to Know page [include link here]. This will clarify what I am looking for in discussions. Also, be certain to review your classmates’ posts with the intent on observing how people discuss online. Once you start posting you’ll see that discussions really are easy to participate in and can be very rewarding. Don’t hesitate to email me if you have further questions about the process. You’ve already shown that you have the knowledge to be a successful contributor to the class discussions. I look forward to reading your thoughts on the discussion board.
(Lori Moody fellow CC classmate, used with permission)

A student's first posting omits capital letters and is not spelled correctly
In reviewing the discussion material from today, I note that your entry has some problems with spelling and usage. I’m concerned about the points you may lose if we don’t work on this issue right away. My thoughts are: Please review the syllabus requirements for discussion board use; if posting from your phone, please check that the auto check hasn't changed your intended message before hitting send; or, take advantage of the spell check feature provided on the discussion board. Here is a quick tutorial on how to use the spell checker in [Insert LMS and link here]. Please let me know if you need further assistance. I will be happy to help you if finding a quick remedy.
(Linda Norton, Fellow CC classmate, used with permission)

"Can I wait to do all assignments on the last day of the course?" "Why are there weekly deadlines?" "I thought I could work at my own pace." "Isn’t online education about flexibility for the student?"

I’m so glad you contacted me to share your thoughts. I am always available to answer questions or clarify content. You have asked some great questions regarding the structure of this course. I’m happy that you have taken the time to look through the material.
To clarify, this course is heavily structured on dialogue between learners. The literature tells us that students learn best interacting and sharing their experiences related to content matter. It is for this reason that there are weekly deadlines, affording everyone the opportunity to post responses, get feedback, and participate in a great opportunity to discuss, debate and confer. Of course, the assignments go along with these postings as we move from topic to topic.
To your other points on pace and flexibility, indeed, online courses are geared to offer students a less structured method of obtaining an education. Working asynchronously allows students to choose the time frames that work best for them at any hour of any day. Additionally, a student is able to take as much time as needed to complete their work throughout the week, while still taking part in a very rich exchange of ideas. I hope I have addressed your questions. Please let me know if you have any other thoughts. It will be a pleasure to learn with you!
Thank you again for bringing your thoughts forward.
(Linda Norton, Fellow CC classmate, used with permission)

"Can I wait to do all assignments on the last day of the course?" "Why are there weekly deadlines?" "I thought I could work at my own pace." "Isn’t online education about flexibility for the student?"
Welcome to an Introduction to [insert course name here]. I'm excited that you’ve expressed an interest in [insert course name here] and look forward to your participation in our learning community. You asked some important questions, and I'll do my best to address them.
This course is designed to be online learning experience, and an important part of that experience is the interaction you'll have with the other learners in our group. A common misperception concerning online learning is that a student only interacts with course material and not classmates. Not true. You will have the opportunity to share opinions, offer feedback, trade war stories, learn new tools and network with others in you field.
In order for that happen, however, the course requires that you play an active role. You are required to log in three days a week to post your assignment and also to post comments and feedback for other students. And since this kind of in depth discussion requires time to develop, you are required to post your first response in the forum no later than Wednesday and respond to other classmates’ posts on multiple days during the week. (Please see the rubric link below for specific information on how you discussion habits can influence your grade.)
I hope you can see why waiting until the end of the course would not allow for the interaction I’ve described. Only you can evaluate whether your schedule allows you to meet the course requirements; however, it’s my sincere hope that it does. I’m confident that once you experience the valuable information and tools that are shared in the forums you will come to appreciate why the course is designed as it is. Many students report that they find the information in the forum interesting, beneficial for practical application, and a great way to grow your contacts for future networking.
Please let me know if you have further questions I can address. Looking forward to what we'll learn,
(Kelly Anne Costello, fellow CC Classmate, used with permission)

Helpful Articles

Butler, K. (n.d.). How to manage ‘difficult’ students online. Australian Flexible Learning Network. Retrieved February 18, 2014, from

Lehmann, K. (2012, March 26). Time Management Strategies for Online Instructors.Time Management Strategies for Online Instructors. Retrieved February 18, 2014, from