Best Practices Using Blackboard Basic Communication Tools

“Making communications with your students personal means that you should communicate with your students in such a way that they know that you feel that they are a real person and that you respect and you value your communications with them.” - Kilgore

Contents

  1. Overview
  2. Best Practices for a Class Communication Plan
  3. Best Practices for Using Blackboard’s Email Tool
  4. Best Practices for Using Blackboard’s Announcements Tool
  5. Additional Resources

1. Overview

Communicating effectively with students in your online courses via Blackboard’s Email and Announcements tools can help build a positive online community and develop instructor-student rapport. Sharing a class communication plan can help alleviate students’ anxiety about when they will connect with you and help streamline your communication strategy.

2. Best Practices for Creating a Class Communication Plan

Online courses offer 24/7 access. This is convenient for students, but can also create ambiguity and anxiety about when and how to get in touch with their instructor and connect with other students. Creating and sharing a class communication plan is very beneficial in this regard. Consider including the following in your communication plan:

  • Your name, title, department., e-mail, and phone number
  • A link to your virtual office meeting space
  • An explanation of where to send questions
  • A statement about how quickly you will respond to emails/questions
  • The kinds of regular communications you will send out, as well as how, and when they’ll be sent
  • Any other plans you have to be available for support
  • Netiquette (online etiquette) guidelines/professional conduct expectations
  • A section that asks students to share any communication needs they may have

Class Communication Plan Template

(Downloadable version )

Intro paragraph
Dear Students,

Below is our class communication plan for the semester. It outlines the various communication channels we will use this semester. As a way for you to practice submitting an assignment, please download, read, sign, and upload the plan to Blackboard by [insert a due date and time here]. You will find the submission link in our Blackboard course content area.

Paragraph 1:
General Questions Q&A Forum: Please post general questions about our course or course technology within the Q&A Discussion forum in Blackboard so that everyone can benefit from the answers. Reserve email for questions of a more personal nature. I will reply to emails and questions in the Q&A forum within [type in the number of hours here] hours, usually sooner. I will not be available to answer questions during [type in the days and times when you will generally not be available here].

Weekly Announcements: I will be sending weekly announcements every [put in the day and time here] (remember that our class work week begins on [type the day of the week here, e.g., Tuesday] and ends on the following [type the day of the week here, e.g., Wednesday] when the week’s assignments are due). Please look for my [Type the day of the week when students should expect your announcement here] announcements in your campus email inbox and in the Blackboard Announcements area at this time. Ask any related questions within the Q&A forum.

Assignment Feedback: Feedback on graded work will be returned to you within Blackboard within [type in the number of days here] days of the assignment submission. If I need to deviate from this schedule, I will send out an announcement in Blackboard.

Virtual Office Hours: You will have opportunities to meet with me to go over assignments, discuss your progress, and ask questions during my virtual office hours on [type in the days and times of your office hours here], or by appointment. Click on/select the virtual office hour link within our Blackboard course to enter the virtual meeting space during these times.

Professional Conduct Expectations (these count as part of class participation): Replace the following text with your own expectations: Email is a professional means of communication in our class. Use proper sentence structure and punctuation, avoid all CAPS and be respectful. Include the course name in your subject line and your name in the email. Check your email daily. Use your KCC email address and not a personal email address. You can verify and change the email listed for you in our Blackboard course by consulting the PDF tutorial on this page. Or you can view this video tutorial that will show you how.

Share any communication needs you may have with your instructor here:

Student Signature:

 

3. Best Practices for Using Blackboard’s E-mail Tool

Send a welcome email to your students a week before the semester begins to help them prepare and to determine any communication needs they may have. You can also share the communication plan in your welcome email. Follow these additional best practices to make effective use of this Blackboard tool:

  • Use Kingsborough’s email and Blackboard exclusively for teaching online and communicating with students and ask them to use their Kingsborough email account exclusively
  • Organize your email using folders so that you are less overwhelmed by the volume of messages in your inbox (refer to ‘Handling Folders’ in this Microsoft Outlook tutorial)
  • Consider other channels for general class questions and answers (e.g. a general Q/A discussion forum)
  • Use an encouraging tone
  • Personalize your messages by using students’ preferred names
  • Make your emails are accessible by using more text and fewer images and by using headings, bullets, and numbered lists (see the CUNY Guide To Accessible Emails)
  • Be clear and concise
  • Don’t share information shared with you via email with the whole class unless you’ve asked for permission first (observe FERPA policy)

Course Welcome E-mail Template

(Downloadable version )

Subject line: Welcome to (your course number, name, and semester/year)!

Intro paragraph:
Grab the students’ attention with a statement of welcome here. Describe the overarching themes and goals of the course. Convey your enthusiasm for the topic and for the learning journey that lies ahead for everyone in the class.

Body paragraph 1:
Describe the structure of the online course and how you will work together – explain when it will begin; whether or not there are required synchronous or on-campus meetings; that it will be conducted in Blackboard; when students are expected to log into Blackboard; and when or how often they should check their email. You can also share with the students information about the Are You Ready course.

Body paragraph 2:
Describe what students will need in order to participate successfully in your online course and the first steps they will need to complete to get started. Consider making this a numbered list so it’s easy to follow.

Examples of what students might need include: a reliable internet connection; a laptop or desktop computer; the Student ITS Help Desk contact information; information about how to borrow a laptop; the need to check their KCC email frequently. A microphone or webcam may also be needed if the student’s device doesn’t have them built-in.

Common pre-semester or first tasks include: logging into Blackboard and reading the syllabus; reading and signing the class communication plan posted to Blackboard; and contributing a personal introduction to the icebreaker discussion forum.

Closing paragraph:
Close by re-emphasizing your excitement about working together and your hopes for the students as learners in your class during the semester.

Signature:
Add your full name and any additional contact information you would like to add.

4. Best Practices for Using Blackboard’s Announcements Tool

Use the Announcements tool for reminders about exams, important corrections, and perhaps a weekly announcement that includes a list of tasks for the week, due dates, learning objectives, and an expression of enthusiasm and encouragement.

To make the most of this tool, consider the following best practices:

  • Create a consistent schedule for announcements
  • Use a supportive tone and express encouragement
  • Use more text and fewer images
  • Use headings, bullets, and numbered lists
  • Provide clear information (e.g., due dates, list of tasks for the week, learning objectives covered)
  • Inform students about how you will be using announcements throughout the course

5. Additional Resources