Email: The Love-Hate Relationship

I love email. I have been using it for over ten years and it has gone from an amusing novelty to one of the most important communication methods I use. While there are some people working in higher education who might say they are not technically inclined, almost everyone is comfortable using email. It has occurred to me that I spend a lot more time reading and sending email lately.

This semester I have a personal home account, Group Wise accounts from three different colleges, and a separate email account from a fourth college. I check these email accounts daily during the week and at least once over the weekend to read and write emails for students, administrators and others. I easily spend over an hour a day in email land. As a good faculty member, I must respond quickly to emails from department chairs or deans. As a good instructor, I need to answer emails from students in as timely a manner as possible. At the beginning of the semester, I tell students I will try to get back to them with an answer the same day; If I receive their emails later in the day, they can expect an answer the next day.

Evidently, we have trained students to expect answers within 12 hours, because that’s when I receive emails from students checking on earlier messages. That’s another reason I try to respond quickly — to keep the in-box from becoming cluttered. Students are not concerned that Freeway Flyers have multiple school accounts to keep track of; their questions are as important to them (if not more so) as anyone else’s.

With all of this important communication going on, it is worthwhile to find ways to streamline and expedite the process. Here are some ways to make your life easier and keep everyone happy.

  • Have all of the individual accounts forwarded automatically to one home or other main account. You will be able to read them all at once and still be able to answer them from the individual accounts. You can set this up yourself, or your network manager at school can assist you as well.
  • Use Microsoft Outlook to configure multiple accounts. There are many other programs available as well, including Pegasus or Mozilla’s Thunderbird. Most are free.
  • Send mass emails to students. Often, you can download a student email list from the roster section of the school web site.
  •  Use Blackboard or Moodle to post messages and answer questions. It will save you time from weeding through emails looking for ones that are related to a particular class.
  • Get high speed internet at home if you have already not done so. Where cable internet is unavailable, check into satellite. It will be worth it to you.
  • Make sure your SPAM filters are set correctly for all of your accounts. A lot of emails are a waste of time and do not even need to reach you. It will save you the trouble of moving them to the delete folder.

The joys of technology are only joys if they improve your effectiveness and make your life easier. The time it takes to put these changes into effect can definintely be worth your while in the long run.

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