Are you inundated with student emails? Do you continue to receive repetitive student emails throughout the semester? Have you wondered why students are emailing you so often? If you have experienced higher than normal student emails, perhaps you may need to revisit the entire communication setup for your course. Consider an online system to supplement or replace email, and direct students to it. For example, you can set up a discussion board through Canvas for your class and then direct students to ask any course-related questions there, rather than email. You’ll still get notified, but the rest of the class will see the question too and might answer a common question for you or perhaps your answer will pre-empt another email . Here are a few suggestions that may assist you in reducing the volume of student emails that you receive during the semester:

Asynchronous Discussions

  •     Create “Cyber Cafe” discussion and require students to post general questions there instead of sending via email: To reduce the amount of email from students, create a discussion forum called “Cyber Cafe” or “Questions & Answers Forum” and instruct students to post general questions that they may have about the course to this forum. If students submit such general course questions via email, simply reply and kindly ask that they post their questions in the designated help forum in the discussion board. Answering the questions in this public discussion forum allows all students in the course to benefit from the responses, eliminates the duplication of email responses, and makes it possible for students to earn additional credit towards their participation grade for answering the questions of their peers.
  •   Subscribe to the “Cyber Cafe” discussion forum and subscribe to be notified via email when new questions are posted. Note: In Canvas, you must make sure your notification preferences for discussions are set to ‘notify me right away’.


Synchronous Discussions

  •   Offer synchronous chat option for Q&A: At times, it may be preferred to answer students’ questions in real time rather than through email or the discussion board. Offering an online office hour using either the chat feature in Canvas or some other synchronous tool such as Zoom will further help develop a sense of teaching presence in your course and provide students with a synchronous communication alternative to sending emails or using the discussion board.



  •   Post important news items as announcements in Canvas which will simultaneously email to all students (with appropriate notification preferences): The Announcement tool is ideal for facilitating communication to students about time-sensitive material such as reminders about upcoming due dates, changes in the course documents, and corrections or clarifications of course materials. When necessary to communicate such reminders or important news items, post as a new announcement in Canvas. This will allow students who do not have notifications set up properly can see them once on the home page when they log in. You can set this up in the settings page under the “more options” and set the number of announcements to show at the top.
  •   Login daily to read new discussions and participate where appropriate: Rather than waiting until the end of a week, it is often more efficient to login once per day during the week to read discussion contributions. Also, responding where necessary within 24 hours is one way to demonstrate a teaching presence in the course.


For more information about working with Canvas discussions, please visit the Canvas Guides or contact an ATS team member at 302-831-4060 or email