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January 26, 2012 / dlitgroup

5 Ways to Communicate with Students Online

This blog post was written by Cheryl Kautz, Adjunct Faculty in Computer Applications.

Instructor-student communication is just as important in online classrooms as it is traditional face-to-face classrooms. Online course effectiveness is determined in part by the quality and frequency of communication.  The following are five ways to use technology to help ensure successful communication in the online classroom:

1. Provide timely communication for your asynchronous discussion boards; subscribe to them.

  • For an existing forum, access the Edit Forum page; choose Allow members to subscribe to forum.
  • For a new forum, access the Create Forum page; choose Allow members to subscribe to forum.
  • Next, on the main Forum page, click the blue Subscribe button. A screen shot of the subscribe button in discussion board
  • When a student posts to the forum, you will be notified immediately via email allowing for the opportunity to make a prompt response.

2. Invite your students to meet you and their classmates synchronously online with Blackboard Collaborate Web conferencing tool. Two-way audio, video, interactive whiteboard and application sharing; with the option to record the session for future learning opportunities!

  • In the Control Panel, click Course Tools, then Blackboard Collaborate.
    Blackboard Collaborate Tool
  • Next, click the Create Session button.
  • Add session information and then click the Content Area tab to add a link to the session in your course.
  • If this is your first time using Blackboard Collaborate with your students, be sure to send out an email and announcement prior to the session to have all students conduct a systems check.
  • When your students arrive online for the session, it is a best practice to ask each student to click the Audio Setup Wizard button located in the Audio & Video panel, before beginning the session.
  • This will help ensure everyone is set and you can focus on communicating, not technical issues! Learn more from the Blackboard Collaborate On-Demand Learning center.

3. Offer synchronous, real-time communication, with Blackboard Instant Messaging. The software can be used for online office hours, tutoring, access to help desks, and connecting with classmates.

  • Click the MyBb tab and then the Blackboard IM – Instant Messaging link in the Tools section.
  • Include Bb IM in your syllabus as a means for students to contact you and collaborate with their classmates.

4. Suggest students set up mobile phone preferences in Blackboard so that they can receive course notifications via text or voice message for class cancellations, announcements, posted grades, etc.

  • Ask students to click the MyBb tab and then the Mobile Phone Preferences link in the Tools section.
  • On the Mobile Preferences page, students add their mobile phone number.
  • Next, students click on Course Notifications or Extended Settings.
  • Students turn on/off settings for which they want to receive automatic notifications!

5. Allow students to provide anonymous course feedback at the end of the semester. Create a Student Feedback discussion forum, set the forum to Allow Anonymous Posts, and then let students know in the forum description that their posts are anonymous. This will encourage open and honest communication, the chance for you to obtain constructive course feedback, and provide opportunities to continuously improve your course.

  • On the Create Forum page, scroll down to #3 Forum Settings.
  • Check the box for Allow Anonymous Posts.

Although the above are excellent tools for communication in online classrooms, they are also effective communication tools for traditional face-to-face classes, allowing you to stay connected with your students between class meetings!

All of the tip sheets in this blog as well as many more are available on Distance Learning & Instructional Technologies’ Blackboard Tip Sheet webpage.


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