Theshold Standard: Communication is clear, and sets expectations for engagement
Clear Communication: Introduction
A successful and rewarding student learning experience is underpinned by an understanding of how to engage with the module online, its content and learning activities.
The following articles in this chapter will provide guidance and resources in order for this expectation to be achieved.
- Use a welcome announcement to introduce the module and signpost essential content
- Articulate how students should engage with the module, and how often. Throughout the site, make it clear what they are to do with content and how to engage with learning activities
- Provide the appropriate practical support and guidance needed for students to participate in learning activities, e.g. use of social media, or specialist online tools
- Inform students how they will be told of things such as last minute room changes, instructions for lecture preparation, or deadline reminders
- Include contact and availability details for all staff appropriate to their role on the module
Clear Communication 1. Use a welcome announcement to introduce the module and signpost essential content
The Announcements tool in Blackboard is an effective way to communicate important information to students, and a welcome announcement would be particularly useful at the start of the year or course. Announcements appear to students on the homepage of your site, as well as being sent by email, and can remain on the site indefinitely or until a set date.
At the start of the year, an announcement could be used to introduce the module, welcome the students and, through the use of the internal link tool, guide them to a certain area of the site containing essential information (such as the module handbook). For more information on how to create Announcements, set their date and time of release or expiration, and link to other site areas, read How do I post/create an Announcement?
Consistent Communication 2. Articulate how students should engage with the module, and how often. Throughout the site, make it clear what they are to do with content and how to engage with learning activities
Through the use of your Blackboard site, you can offer a wide variety of information and activities which can complement the content of the module. These can range from allowing students to view and download lecture slides to assessing work through online tests and assignment submission, or through blogs and discussion boards. You should decide which activites will be offered to students, how you want them to use your site and how often they should access it; this should be clearly communicated to students from the outset as they may have expectations set by the use of Blackboard sites for other modules.
The communication of this could be done in a variety of ways, including through a Rationale, included in the Module Documents area of your site, or as part of a welcome announcement explaining the module.
- Start of Semester: Determine how the site will be used and communicate that to students
Consistent Communication 3. Provide the appropriate practical support and guidance needed for students to participate in learning activities, e.g. use of social media, or specialist online tools
For any activities you require students to engage with in Blackboard, you should ensure that the relevant support material is available to them. Answers to many student queries regarding features such as Assignments, Tests and Discussion Boards can be found in the student Knowledge Base, therefore it is important to check that the 'Blackboard Help' link is included within the menu of your site. You may also want to consider writing some brief instructions on any tools used, such as Wikis or Blogs, in the relevant content areas of the site.
When using online tools outside of Blackboard with your students, such as Pebblepad or Google Apps, ensure you have links to both the tools themselves and any support materials explaining how to use them in the relevant area of your Blackboard site.
Clear Communication 4. Inform students how they will be told of things such as last minute room changes, instructions for lecture preparation, or deadline reminders
Within the teaching team on your module, a consistent approach should be agreed about how information will be communicated to students. All module staff should agree on, and be aware of, who is responsible for posting announcements, the procedure for answering questions from students (e.g. through a single main contact, individual tutors, a discussion board etc.), and how communication will be continued in case of staff absence or illness.
It is worth determining what communication tools will be most appropriate for contacting your students and ensuring everyone has appropriate staff development to be able to use them. Your faculty e-learning team can help you with this.
Consistent Communication 5. Include contact and availability details for all staff appropriate to their role on the module
The Staff Details area of a Blackboard site should contain contact details for all members of teaching and support staff associated with the module. This is important to implement from the start of the module in order for students to familiarise themselves with their lecturers and tutors. In order for students to feel that they can contact staff, information such as photographs, contact numbers (or preferred method of contact), office location and availability should be included.
Remember that the Staff Details area of a site is copied over along with a site, so this should be reviewed to ensure that all the information is up-to-date and that every current staff member is included.
If the Blackboard Help link is missing from your site, read the article on how to include the link to the student knowledge base in the menu
- For more information on providing support to students, contact your Faculty E-Learning advisor.