Email is perhaps one of the most effective ways for an instructor to communicate and engage with students. Email is typically used for one-to-one communication between an instructor and student. Email is official record of college business and can be subject to a Freedom of Information request.
With the move to remote learning, office hours need to move online as well. Holding online office hours can help extend the online learning environment, contribute to instructor presence, and make you more accessible to your students ensuring you can respond to any questions or concerns.
The use of discussion forums within D2L is effective way to engage and communicate with students. Set the ground rules, remind students about sharing personal information about themselves or others.
At the beginning of the course set up discussion forum for general questions related to the course, let students know about it.
Some instructors set up a discussion forum for students to engage more casually on topics unrelated to the course ("coffee chat"). It's important set the ground rules. Remind students all comments can be seen by everyone, including the instructor.
Telephone can be an effective tool to communicate with students. While working remotely, it's important that you protect your privacy, especially with using your personal phones (land line or cell).