Communicating Remotely

In this time of social distancing and remote communication, you’ll probably be relying on your written communication skills more than ever before.

Contact your Instructors Early and Communicate Often

Experiencing problems outside of school? Have a documented disability? Email your instructors as soon as possible so they can support you. They will be grateful to you for communicating clearly about your situation and how they can help you. This Psychology Today article, “Disability? In College? Advice on Talking to Professors,” gives useful tips about how to advocate for the accommodations you need if you have a documented disability.

Asking for Help by Email

You’ve probably sent thousands of emails by this point in your life. However, we hear from students and faculty that email communication can be a challenge. Learn strategies and see examples for asking for help by email. Plus learn more about the 2 email systems in use at PSU.Email can be an effective way to seek support or resources, as well as to communicate with your professors. Unlike with in-person communications, you don’t have the benefit of interpersonal cues such as smiles, gestures or other body language to help communicate. Because of this, it’s extra important to pay attention to the exact language you use and to follow standard email etiquette. Until you know the person you’re emailing personally, it’s best to adopt a more formal tone in your email message.

Another characteristic of email is that we all get a lot of it! Your email recipient (professor, advisor, etc.) probably also receives many emails every day. Try to make your question specific, clear, and concise to help your reader understand your need.

The following sites contain tips and advice for composing academic emails.

A Note about PSU Email Systems

You may have noticed that you have email in your D2L system as well as a PDX Gmail account accessible through These accounts are different! We’ll cover the differences in more depth in the “Using D2L for Remote Learning” chapter. For now it’s important just to acknowledge that there are two email systems. In most cases you’ll want to use the PDX gmail email account, but you may have individual instructor who requests that you use the D2L email system instead.


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Remote Learning Kit by Portland State University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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