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January 17, 2012 / ekunnen

5 Ways to Improve Communication and Instant Connection with Students

Thanks to Jose Mora from Distance Learning and Instructional Technologies for submitting this post!

Students are constantly immersed in technology. Whether it is their phones or notebooks, today’s college student is always multitasking and engaged in different mediums of communication (social networking, texting, instant messaging). With so many interactive tools drawing their attention it is no wonder that most college students need more interactivity in the communication they receive from their professors. Here are some tips for you to do just that!

Tip #1 – E-mail

E-mail is one of the quickest and most efficient ways to communicate. More commonly used in business and higher education, it has been used for years to effectively communicate. However, the truth is that your younger student population may not care too much for it. They may look at it as an outdated tool and only find use for it in their scholastic lives.

Although this is partly true, e-mail still stands as one of the better ways to keep in touch with your students. It is a quick way to get a message across a mass amount of students. If you are not already using e-mail, we encourage you to begin today!

There are ways to make e-mail more engaging. Blackboard gives you the ability to send a “voice” e-mail. This gives you the ability to record your voice, rather than type a message, and send it to your students in an e-mail message. This is great because it may seem less tedious than typing an e-mail (especially if it is particularly long). Most important of all, it is a more personable way to message your students.

  • Check out our tip sheet on learning how to send a Voice email.

Tip #2 – Bb IM (Instant Messenger)

Blackboard IM (formerly known as Pronto IM) is an instant messaging tool for faculty to student interaction. Much like e-mailing, it is a very quick and efficient form of communicating; however, it is “real time”.  Bb IM gives your students a quick way to ask a question instead of having to wait to receive another e-mail. This is particularly useful if the student has a simple and quick question that would only take a second to answer.

Another great use for Bb IM is its office hour’s capability. You can set open office hours, much like you do for your face-to-face courses. Of course, there is no need to limit your online office hours to your online students. Your face-to-face students would also benefit in having that option.

Tip #3 – Podcasts

A podcast provides a feed of digital media either in the form of an audio or video file.  A podcast is a great tool to use in the classroom to keep the students up to date. For example, you could record your lectures in class and then podcast the lecture for your students to use as a refresher.  The benefit of a podcast is that each time you upload a new episode, it is delivered to students that have subscribed to the podcast feed – automatically.

The other great thing is that you can use this as a way to update your students on things that are going to come up in the class. The difference between a podcast and a voice e-mail is that students are able to subscribe to your podcasts keeping them always up to date. It is also a good way to involve technology that your students may already be using. For example, you may publish your podcasts on iTunes allowing the students to download the content right to their iPod/iPhone/iPad.  Once they subscribe they do not need to constantly remember to download the file, iTunes does it for them.  All they have to do is plug in their mobile device, sync, and they are good to go!

  • Good news!  GRCC is planning to develop and offer iTunes U soon. Stay tuned!  Meanwhile, you can use the Blackboard Voice Tools Podcaster feature.   These tool is similar to the voice mashup, email, and discussion board tools.  More information is available here.

Tip #4 – Discussion Boards

A discussion board is just a fancy way of saying forum. It can be used for students to interact with each other, as many of you know, but it is not limited to that. Although all the previous methods are great and work well, biscussion boards provide interactivity with your students in a different format. This medium welcomes, well like it says in its name, discussion. E-mail and Bb IM allows for quick, effective communication, while podcasts keeps your students up to date; however, discussion boards are intended more for dialogue. You may pose your class a question relevant to the material and converse with them on the matter.

This is great because not every student is willing to speak in class and this provides those students a medium to get their thoughts across without the anxiety of speaking in front of other students.

You can have an analytical discussion with your student, forwarding their learning, which you may have never had in any other way. This is a great to help build their critical thinking skills.

Like e-mail, Blackboard allows you to record your voice instead of typing the message. This feature is known as a Voice Board and may prove to be a more personable form of discussion boards and would benefit foreign language students and provide a unique engaging experience.

  • Check out the discussion board tip sheet here and the Voice Board tool is similar to the voice mashup, email, and podcaster  tools.  More information is on Voice Boards is available here.

Tip #5 – Blogs

Blogs are a cool extra feature to have in your class. A blog is a site where student entries are made in a chronological style; essentially it is an online journal.  A blog can be subject specific (politics, food, concept, topic oriented, and so on) or it can be user based in Blackboard.

If you wish to share a point of view or your thoughts with your students then a blog is right for you. In turn, they can do the same making it a good way to connect with students.

A private blog in Blackboard is called a journal and it is essentially a private blog that allows only the instructor the ability to see posts.

For more Blackboard tutorials please visit the DLIT Blackboard Tip Sheets and Video Tutorials page.

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