Online courses are open 24/7. This is more convenient for students, but it also means they don’t really know how/when to get in touch with you, the instructor. Online courses benefit greatly when the instructor creates a communication plan and communicates it with their students, especially in weeks one and two of the term.
Here’s a sample communication plan:
“Please post questions about the course in the Q&A discussion forum so that the entire class can benefit from our back-and-forth. Please reserve email for questions of a personal nature.
I will reply to email and questions posted in the Q&A discussion forum within 24 hours, usually sooner. I strive to return all graded work, with my feedback, within 5 days of the assignment being submitted. Please do look for my detailed feedback and use it.
If I need to deviate from this schedule, I will [send an email] and let you know. I will usually not be available on Sundays. Most assignments are due on Monday evenings.
Students should [check Oregon State University email, log in to the course] at least three times per week.”
For the last couple of paragraphs – you might prefer to post an announcement, or adjust the course home page. In your communication plan, you may want to address your recommendations for students in setting their own notification patterns in Canvas to suit how you plan to communicate, as well as expectations that students check their Oregon State University email accounts.
Your communication plan may be different, but it should address communication channels (discussion board, email, phone, Skype), your estimated response times for questions, your estimated time to complete grading, and any days when you expect to be unavailable. This might be a certain day of the week, or perhaps a few specific dates during a given term while you give a conference, etc.