Just because you are taking online courses, it might seem that your professors aren’t holding you to the same academic standards or principles of those found in the classroom. You might not get that feeling of intimidation or inferiority since you don’t see these people on a regular basis or ever meet them or her face to face. However, this doesn’t mean that your professor is any less important to your academic success. Whether you agree with it or not, in the classroom or over the internet, it’s a good idea to treat professors with respect and dignity and as a superior rather than a “peer” or “equal” unless they request otherwise. It is also important to remember the phrase, “familiarity breeds contempt,” when it comes to dealing with your professors. Here are a few tips to avoid being the contemptible portion of that phrase.

A PROFESSOR ISN’T YOUR FRIEND
No matter how “cool” your professor seems, remember, he is still the one who gives you your grade. He is there to do a job, and similar to the workplace, you could consider him your boss. Don’t treat a professor like your friend because he’s not — he’s your professor.

DON’T ASSUME A SUPERIOR ATTITUDE
Just because your tuition goes to pay a portion of the professor’s paycheck doesn’t mean you own and control him. Taking a haughty, holier than thou type attitude will likely place you high on the professor’s “avoid at all costs” list.

CONSIDER YOUR WRITTEN COMMUNICATIONS
This is a big one to watch out for among many online students. When you are dealing with academia, no matter how many miles removed by the internet, you should remember to keep your communications professional. Just as in the workplace, it’s important to use proper grammar, not make flippant remarks, and refrain from jargon not familiar to all. Words don’t always convey emotion the way you want them to when read by someone else, therefore try to keep your emails, texts, or whatever, short, sweet, polite, and too the point.

KEEP IT PROFESSIONAL
While it might seem like common sense, dirty or profane emails, pictures, limericks, etc. sent to a professor is typically a big no-no. It is often best to avoid using school email or distribution lists for such items as well, since you don’t know who is viewing them or where they’ll end up. Just because your professor seems to have a great sense of humor and may even send you an inappropriate email, doesn’t mean you should do the same.

AVOID SILLY OR UNREASONABLE REQUESTS
Remember, you are the student here. If anyone is making requests, it should be the professor. Unless you’ve had a family emergency, severe illness or similar unavoidable emergency, you should probably try to avoid making special requests that will put the professor in a bind and make it appear as if you are receiving preferential treatment.

YOU AREN’T THEIR ONLY STUDENT
At times, since we aren’t sitting in a classroom surrounded by our fellow students, we tend to forget that professors may have dozens of other students with whom they deal each day. Therefore, unless invited to do so, you may want to keep your nonessential questions, comments, concerns, and other communications to a minimum. The professor will appreciate it.

READ, UNDERSTAND AND ABIDE BY THE SYLLABUS
Remember that thing you get at the beginning of each course laying out many of the goals, expectations, important project and test dates, etc., regarding the class and coursework? It’s called a syllabus, and in most cases, it is the bible for your particular class or coursework. The professor often devotes a large amount of time to creating this document and it is highly agitating to them when you ask questions that could be found within the syllabus. By doing this, it tells the professor two things, first that you never read the syllabus, and second, that your time is more valuable than his is.

DON’T MAKE UNREASONABLE ASSUMPTIONS
Not all professors have the same standards and rules regarding how they treat various situations. Just because you had a professor that once allowed you to attend class at your leisure or take every Wednesday session off for work, it doesn’t mean you current professor will.

BE WARY OF USING PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE TO JUSTIFY YOUR ACTIONS
As a side note to the previous point regarding assumptions, it probably won’t help your case telling a professor, “Well, my last professor let me do it!” If anything, such a comment will only anger the professor and make his stance on the issue even more steadfast.

DON’T STALK YOUR PROFESSOR
Unless your professor has openly invited you to become their friend on Facebook or MySpace or has given you their personal email, don’t stalk him by way of the internet. Cyberstalking can be just as disturbing at stalking someone in person and your professor most likely won’t appreciate your overly enthusiastic interest in his personal life. This is probably not the way to find yourself in the professor’s good graces, and more than likely, it will make him want to avoid communicating with you at all.

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