Establish communication to bolster engagement:
Netiquette (or etiquette when on the Internet) refers to community guidelines that encourage socially acceptable conduct in the online environment.
Establishing a safe and productive space to learn and experiment is essential to any learning environment. This is particularly true in an online course, because students are expected to frequently communicate their ideas in writing or demonstrate their work to the entire group.
How well do you establish and sustain a safe environment for students to contribute ideas and show work?
- Establish Netiquette guidelines and send reminders when appropriate
- Create opportunities for students to introduce themselves to the class (using a discussion board, blogs, or a Collaborate session)
Although students may not receive a lot of face time with instructors in an online course, cultivating a safe and engaging environment is as essential as in a conventional classroom. Student motivation and perseverance is correlated with how connected they feel to the instructor and the learning environment, and that doesn’t change with an online course.
Consistent and regular communication from faculty can establish and maintain a strong instructor presence. This could include (but is not limited to):
- a self-introduction (perhaps as a video) to begin the course
- regular e-mail communications about assignments
- moderating a discussion board to ensure students contribute in a thoughtful manner
Providing clear details and timely, action-specific feedback for assessments also help students develop confidence in the instructor’s presence.
Faculty can post announcements to send important messages to their students. Periodic use of announcements helps to keep students alert in the course and serve as reminders for due dates. The following are some examples of appropriate use of announcements.
- A welcome announcement at the beginning of the course
- An announcement for each Learning Unit that includes clear start and end dates
- An announcement for each assignment or assessment clearly stating due date and point value
An announcement for each assignment or assessment clearly stating the due date and point value. Reminding students about the value/ percentage of the grade is important.
Student collaboration tools
Oftentimes, the element students miss the most about being in a classroom is the social environment and interaction.
- Do you create opportunities for students to get to know each other?
- How conducive is the environment for collaboration?
Blackboard offers a range of tools to encourage communication and collaboration in an online course. Use at least 1 interactive media application for each Learning Unit: blogs, wikis, discussion forums, BB Collaborate Ultra. ePortfolios is another way students can share their ideas and work.
These are activities that create an opportunity for students to introduce themselves to each other (using the discussion board, a blog, or a collaborate session). Supporting students in getting to know each other helps them feel connected to the course, and motivates them to participate in collaborative activities.
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