Most of your lecturers don’t just come into uni to lecture for a few hours every week and then go home. They normally run one or two courses per semester with an average of 80+ students, and are typically required to also publish one to two journal articles while marking assignments throughout the term. Lecturers are also involved with others aspects of research including supervision and attending conferences.
Lecturers’ work also involves handling the administration of their subjects – that is, answering emails and running the online learning environment. The admin is probably the hardest area for lecturers to conquer, as most will receive up to 30 emails per day from students in relation to assignments, lecture recordings, extensions, tutorial attendance, grades, and requests for meetings.
Thinking about the workload that your lecturer has, here’s how you can help them to give you a speedy response to your email query…
Use your student email account
You have a student email account for university communication – use it. Often universities will only reply to your student email account (and delete anything from personal email addresses). Also, think about your personal email address (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org) and how this may not convey a good impression to your lecturer if you are requesting an extension.
Include your student name, number and course name
Your lecturers often have up to 500 students so you need to include your student name and number so that they can quickly find your details. Always include your full name, as there are often ten Bens or Janes per course.
Your lecturer may run up to four courses per semester so they will also need to know which course you come from (especially when two courses have an assignment due at the same time and they are unsure which essay you are referring to).
Use the subject line
Summarise the body of the email. Will the person know what the subject is by reading the subject line? E.g. Extension Request- Major Essay- Law and Society.
Don’t assume they know the background
You may have chatted to your lecturer in the hallway, or you spoke with your tutor and assumed that they spoken with your lecturer – this is sometimes not the case. Therefore, include a brief background of your issue just in case your lecturer doesn’t remember the details of that hallway conversation.
Be clear and concise
Be clear in your message, as an unclear email will result in a frustrated recipient and delay the response. Use correct grammar and don’t overdo the acronyms and abbreviations.
Refer to your lecturers by their title
Lecturers have different titles (e.g. Professor, Assistant Professor, Doctor) – they have worked hard for their relevant title, so you should refer to them by their full title when you first email them. They may prefer for students to call them by their first name, but don’t be over-familiar in the first communication.
Think before you send
Have you looked through the unit outline for the answer to your question? Have you looked on the online learning environment? Are you asking a question to something you could easily find the answer to? Some lecturers will not answer questions if they know the answer is easily found, so make sure you check the subject materials, course announcements or university handbook first.
Remember that emails are not confidential
Do not be angry or rude in emails with your university. The university is training you to be a professional and if you send emails with ‘unacceptable’ content in the workplace you can be disciplined (or fired). This is the same at the uni, so remember that those emails are not confidential and could be used as ‘evidence’ if an issue is escalated.
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