I received a couple emails from students who didn’t completely understand a research panel project I had designed for an online course. With the due date quickly approaching, they were already deep into the work on the their assignment. Instead of writing detailed emails to each of these students, I decided to try something different. I sent out an email to the entire class, asking all 24 students to send me more questions. I gave them a deadline (by noon tomorrow), and told them that I’d use their questions to build an FAQ.
Here are some of the benefits I’ve discovered from creating that FAQ:
1 – It saves a ton of time. Instead of responding to fifteen emails, I’m writing one long message, and making it available to everyone in the class.
2 – It helps me address their real questions. I’m so familiar with this assignment that I don’t know what they may need clarified. Of course, I feel like I’ve described everything clearly in the instructions and in the syllabus–but ten years of teaching tells me that there are always gaps in my communication, always.
3 – It’s reusable. I can use this FAQ in the course next semester, and I can build or alter it as I improve the assignment.
4 – It’s another chance to be responsive to my students and to communicate that I care about them and their learning process.
5- It’s concrete. Here are some of the questions that came from my students. “Can I use my notes during the panels?” “How long will the panel last?” “How much of the time should our team devote to interpretation and how much to application?” As teachers, we can get a bit abstract in our instructions. The FAQ helps us speak directly and clearly to our students’ concerns.