Written communication skills are different from verbal, but just as important and effective. Whether we are writing to students to provide information, or giving feedback on coursework, the way we write has an impact. The corporate communications team at Navitas is collaborating with academic expertise across the organisation to compile a series of guides on effective communications: Effective student communications is the first in the series.
This guide provides tips on how to develop your written communication skills, with the goal of enhancing student interaction and achieving more positive outcomes in less time.
- Communication and respect
Setting expectations from the outset can help students feel settled more quickly and improve confidence in their communications with you. In these communications the three Cs should guide what you write:
- Be clear – put yourself in the shoes of your students and consider whether what you are writing is easily understood, and if any jargon or acronyms are familiar to students.
- Be concise – less is more; short emails still communicate key ideas, so when reviewing emails check if there are any redundant words that can be removed.
- Be consistent – use terminology and structure content consistently.
Inclusive language should also be considered. This is language that is accessible and respectful, and when used it empowers students of all backgrounds to participate in conversations.
- The tools to communicate
Email, Zoom and Microsoft Teams are some of the many tools you can use to communicate with students. When deciding what tool to use, a few things to consider are the following:
- Are students already familiar with this tool?
- Will they be more engaged if it is used?
- Is internal technical support available to assist in troubleshooting?
- Is this tool policy compliant?
Other things to consider include:
- Styling – commonly known formatting conventions that can be adhered to include underlining headings and subheadings, using textual emphasise like Bold sparingly to emphasise information, and using one font colour and size to not overwhelm the reader
- Tone – active tone should be considered because it is more personable and implies accountability
- A calm mind – number one rule: do not send an email that you have written in anger. Proofreading is always worth it.
- Providing actionable feedback to students
Constructive and motivating feedback that students take into consideration and act upon can be challenging. The following simple format could be considered:
- Accurate – is your information specific, and correct?
- Relevant – is it linked to task expectations?
- Accessible – pretend you are the reader; can you still understand your email?
- Timely – is it provided soon after the submission date?
- Actionable – is it clear what direction the student can take to improve?
- Helping students to communicate
Some students may be unfamiliar with formal email etiquette. To help build their skills and confidence in this area you can ‘lead by example’ and model the three Cs (clear, concise, and consistent) and the kind of respectful and polite communication you expect.
Click here to read the full Effective Student Communications guide.
Anthea Somas is a Communications Specialist in the Navitas corporate communications team and has been writing and editing professional for over 12 years. If you would like more information on this communication guide email Anthea.Somas@navitas.com.