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Communication & Collaboration for Students

“Education‌ ‌is‌ ‌a‌ ‌shared‌ ‌commitment‌ ‌between‌ ‌dedicated‌ ‌teachers,‌ ‌motivated‌ ‌students,‌ ‌and‌ ‌enthusiastic‌ ‌parents‌ ‌with‌ ‌high‌ ‌expectations.”‌ ‌

Bob‌ ‌Beauprez‌


Online learning can provide flexibility and access to high quality courses. There are some unique features of online learning that require attention in order to be a positive experience for students, families, and teachers.

  • Online learning is a shared commitment between students, families, and teachers.
  • Online learning works best when there are clear expectations, timelines, and opportunities to collaborate.
  • Screen time and independent work time require an intentional focus on building strong social-emotional skills and, especially in the case of full-time online learning, self-care.
  • Each district, school, and teacher will outline local expectations in addition to these guidelines.

The guide below offers some general tips for students. It is important to understand that these tips are not intended to address specific accommodations or modifications for individual students or to replace local expectations.

Feedback about online learning was gathered from a broad base of students, families, teachers, and administrators. The topics in each guide were identified as a need during a series of virtual forums and a statewide survey conducted by the Iowa Department of Education. 

Communication and Collaboration Guides

The guide below is organized by the following topics:

  • Communication,
  • Feedback,
  • Connecting/Collaborating, and 
  • Seeking Support.

It may be helpful to use an online readiness checklist to see which areas you may need support. Don’t worry if you aren’t ready, the checklist will connect you to resources that can help during your online experience. 

Tips for Students (Junior High/High School)


  • Ask the teacher what to use (email, discussion boards, text) if you need help asap. Teachers might give multiple ways to contact them and knowing the one they check most often would be helpful.
  • Follow up if you don’t hear back. It is possible the teacher didn’t see your question, text, or email.
  • Ask if you can have a quick video chat with the teacher if you are having trouble putting your question or thoughts into writing.
  • Leave your phone in another room or consider turning it off- unless it is needed for class. (Successful multi-tasking is a myth!)


  • Ask questions to get help. Be specific about the part you don’t understand or ask “Can you say that again in a different way?” General statements like “I don’t get it” are harder for teachers to support.
  • If you feel overwhelmed or unsure, repeat back what you heard. This gives the teacher a chance to support you and clarify what they meant.
  • Ask questions early and often. Don’t assume everyone gets it except you. Ask questions before you get frustrated or shut down.
  • Respect other people’s privacy. Online classes (not in the school building) can let you see into others personal situations. Don’t comment or discuss these things, especially outside of class.


  • Invite others to share their opinions and thoughts.
  • Stay on topic. If you get distracted, it’s ok to acknowledge it and return to the topic.
  • Make specific comments. “I’m interested in what you said about xyz” is better than “That’s interesting.”
  • If you don’t like talking out loud that much, use chat or other online ways to engage (like discussion boards).
  • Use appropriate language and avoid personal attacks. Lively debates and respectful arguments can be a part of good online classes.

Seeking Support

  • Set up a work area and use organizing tools, like a calendar or schedule planner. Ask your family or friends for ideas and support/help if that doesn’t come naturally to you.
  • If all your classes are online, plan on breaks: stand and stretch, blink your eyes, tap a pen or draw while listening.
  • Take a quick break or walk away from school work if things are getting tense. Try to make a plan for coming back- just doing one thing at a time, working with a friend, or starting with something easy.