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Don’t get it? Ever feel the frustration of being left out of the loop when it comes to information that would help you do your job? Being on the right communication networks is growing more important every day in our mobile and global world. The same principle applies in online classes as well.

None of us are all-knowing and no one can possibly see everything. Like the story of the blind men and the elephant, each person thinks he has the whole picture and insists the others are wrong, while the truth is, all of them understand only a part of the greater picture. How do you address that elephant in the room? Subscribe to discussion forums or threads. Depending on how they are set up, you can subscribe to be notified when anything is posted in a forum or just when you someone responds to your post.

Ask questions. Just remember your instructor (as well as others) may suffer from a condition called “the curse of knowledge.” That is when better-informed people find it extremely difficult to think about problems from the perspective of lesser-informed people. So, when you ask, be as specific as possible. Include context plus an example if possible.

By subscribing to forums, such as the Student Lounge or Global Café, you may find out about a question you have not thought of yet, or perhaps you are afraid to ask. Maybe you have just ignored the issue and are resigned to your own corner of knowledge. Unfortunately, you might be keeping others in the dark too. As an instructor, I love the questions that spark better insight as to why something is an issue and how I might better explain the solution.

For example, a student asked a question about a common APA header error I see so often. I had a difficult time understanding why this was a problem because I was suffering from the “curse of knowledge.” Fortunately, this student was specific in asking his question and included the context of the problem along with an example. This was an eye-opener for me, and I was finally able to explain in such a way that made sense to him and my other students.

Perhaps you have been frustrated by not knowing what question to ask (or how to phrase it) to get the answer you need. That is where the collaborative nature of our discussions is our strength. Classmates can help clarify both questions and answers as well. We are in this together.

Remember to be kind and considerate as you, your classmates, and your instructor sort out frustrating issues that may be holding you back. Working together, you will see the big picture and understand how to complete the task.