The fourth principle of good practice for teaching is Give Prompt Feedback (Chickering & Gamson, 1987). According to Graham, Cagiltay, Lim, Craner, and Duffy (2001) there are two types of feedback should be used in online teaching: "information feedback" and "acknowledgment feedback." Information feedback answers students' questions or provides information or comments.
Acknowledgment feedback assures students you have received their assignment submissions or that you are in search of answers to their questions and that you will respond soon. Sometimes you can give feedback to the entire class, reminding them that you are grading their papers and it will take a week or so to respond.
This alleviates individual questions and comments. Because face-to-face contact is not available, it is a good practice to respond as quickly as possible. Please remember that students cannot see how busy you are when trying to find the answers to their questions or sitting behind your desk grading their papers.
Throughout the semester, send personal emails complimenting students on their participation as a great morale booster and motivator.
Print out the first week's discussion where students posted introductions and keep it by your computer for the entire semester. When responding to students via email, scan the printout to review with whom you are speaking and ask about their children or spouse by name. This creates a personal connection with students.
Create standard email responses in a word processor to copy and paste each semester, such as your welcome email, reminders for certain assignments, and instructions for good discussion board posting.
Create a "Don't Call Me, I'll Call You" pattern for grade information. Post a course announcement or email to communicate to students each time grades are posted. This alleviates individual emails from students requesting grades on their assignments. Students will quickly realize you will post notification when grades are posted, so requests are unnecessary.
Fastback Hour - If there is a specific times when you will be online, you should include a "fastback" time, or online office hours. A fastback time is a time period when students can expect a quicker than normal email response, usually within the hour or soon after the message is received. Many instructors offer online office hours where they enter the class chat-room and wait for questions.