ITS 106: Collaborative Communication Tools for Instruction
There are multiple communication tools available to New River instructors and students (overview of them). This workshop will provide an overview of them while focusing on their practical application for instruction.
After completing this workshop participants will be able to:
1) Categorize synchronous and asynchronous communication tools available at New River with at least 75% accuracy.
2) Choose the appropriate communication tool for a specific type of communication need with at least 75% accuracy.
3) Create an instructional objective (comprised of behavior, condition and standard) that applies to the Blackboard Learn Discussion Tool.
4) Recognize the various communication tools available at New River with at least 70% accuracy.
Communication Diagram (PDF)
Choosing a Communication Method
With so many communication methods available it is difficult to always select the most appropriate one for the message you might want to communicate. One approach to communication is to begin with the least intrusive approach and then progress to more intrusive methods as the urgency of the message increases. Why? Some communication methods allow each party opportunities for thoughtful responses and reflection while other approaches require that the recipient of the message stop all other activities for the sake of immediate communication. Also, for record-keeping purposes, some forms of communication leave excellent records of the conversation while others might not (phone calls).
There are exceptions to the information in this diagram. Can you think of any?
There are also other considerations when you are choosing communication tools and within a classroom we should make deliberate attempts to accommodate the various learning styles and preferences that students may have. One outcome of the SmarterMeasure exam (formerly known as the READI Assessment) is that students learn about their own learning style preferences.
Learning Styles and Communication (PDF)
The New River email system provides accounts for all students and instructors at New River. There are three ways (maybe more?) that instructors can locate a student's email address.
- Typically, instructors use Self-Service Banner to obtain a copy of the "official course roster" as well as other information, including student email addresses.
- Perhaps the easiest method for locating a student email address is to query the online People Search. You can use the student last name for the query. When an instructor is on campus and using Microsoft Outlook as the email client, the built-in address book provides access to the Global Address Book. This information is identical to the People Search site, but rather than performing a query from the People Search web page the query is performed from within Microsoft Outlook. The results are the same.
- A third way of finding a student email address is to locate the student's username from within your Blackboard Learn course shell. By appending @newriver.edu to the student username (e.g., white_aa) you can figure out the email address (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Email is asynchronous, meaning that you send it - you wait - you get a reply. The conversation doesn't occur in real-time but may realistically take a few days. A reasonable expectation that I establish with my students is that I try to reply to all my emails within 24 hours. Sometimes that response might be as brief as "I recieved your email and will need to get back with you soon regarding that question." If a student emails you and doesn't receive any response for 2-3 days you've lost an opportunity to provide timely feedback and/or information. Remember, keeping the student engaged is a key to successful learning.
The New River email system also has group addresses to facilitate communication. These group addresses should be used sparingly and only for communications related to the essential mission of the College. We also have access to listservs through WVNET to create ad hoc groups or groups focused on a specific issue (like email@example.com for all New River Banner users).
Email can be one-to-one or one-to-many. You can include multiple recipients in your TO field and you can also use the CC and BCC fields. You can attach files up to 10MB in size to an email (e.g., PPT, RTF, PDF).
Discussion Point: When is New River email the appropriate method for communication with your students?
Blackboard Learn Email
A fully functional course-based email system is built into Blackboard Learn. This means that rather than trying to locate each of your student's email addresses from among the 6,000+ other email addresses at New River, using People Search, you only need to locate them by name from within your class of 25 or so students. Also, rather than having your email arrive in a student's New River email inbox with all the other emails they receive, you can communicate within Blackboard Learn using an inbox dedicated to your course. This (1) segregation of email and (2) the simplicity of locating a single student are two great advantages of using the course-based email system within Blackboard Learn.
You can attach files to Blackboard Learn emails (up to 10MB) and you can even forward all your Blackboard Learn emails to another Internet email account if you like. You cannot send an email directly from an Internet email system to an Blackboard Learn account though. It is an internal system restricted to the participants of a particular course section.
Blackboard Learn email is also asynchronous and it can be one-to-one or one-to-many.
Discussion Point: It is up to the instructor to establish expectations regarding effective and appropriate communication methods for the class. How might Blackboard Learn email be applied?
Blackboard Learn Discussions
A discussion board is an online area where you can post a question, comment, or statement and then others can view it and reply to it. This doesn't happen in real-time, so it is an asynchronous form of communication. An appropriate use of Discussions might be an instructor posting a discussion question (also called a thread or topic) and then requiring students to reply to the question within a specific period of time.
When you post a comment to a discussion board it is one-to-many communication.
Discussion Point: How might you "assess" student discussion comments?
Blackboard Learn Chat
An online chat session is real-time, meaning that when you make a comment the readers are viewing it immediately. Managing an online chat session involves a few challenges. Generally, these challenges can be easily overcome but each one requires a different approach. First, someone has to be "in control" of the chat room. Otherwise the conversation quickly gets diverted off topic. If there are more than a few participants the conversation can quickly develop multiple threads or topics. Since you'll see this one line at a time it is awkward to follow so keeping the chat session focused on topic is important. Managing a session of 25 participants who are actively communicating is nearly impossible, so reducing the chat session to fewer than 10 greatly increases the focus of the session.
Discussion Point: How might you incorporate chat into your course?
Instant Messaging with Blackboard IM
New River CTC has implemented Blackboard IM as the College's official instant messaging application. It is course-based, meaning that your students are grouped for you into the right classes and we also have other groups like "Employees of New River" to facilitate communication among employees.
To accommodate students at a distance, instructors must avail themselves in some way for "virtual" office hours. Instant messaging with Blackboard IM is one way to accomplish this. It is typically a one-to-one same-time method of communication although it does support one-to-many (more than two participants). Blackboard IM also includes features for screen sharing, video, and a white board. Blackboard IM includes a feature called "Office Hours" and it also has built-in help desks. These features provide a queue so that folks wanting to communicate can wait until it is their turn to speak with you.
I've noticed two features of Blackboard IM that hopefully will change with future upgrades. (1) Messages sent when one party is logged in but "away" are retained on the screen or received when the participant returns; however, messages sent when the other part is offline are not retained and are never received. (2) You can't drag-and-drop or exchange files using Blackboard IM (as far as I can tell). There is a 7-minute video tutorial that provides an excellent overview of Blackboard IM.
The following information is from the Educause site "7 Things You Should Know":
Instant messaging (IM) is a form of online communication that allows real-time interaction through computers or mobile devices. Although typed text remains the primary convention for IM, the technology now allows users to send images, audio and video files, and other attachments. Hundreds of millions of people use IM to stay connected. In many ways, it epitomizes the notion of the always-connected, multitasking student, sending and receiving messages at all hours, from a wide spectrum of devices, while doing several other things at the same time. IM has become such an integral part of students' lives that many colleges and universities are working to move it beyond the social sphere into teaching and learning.
Discussion Point: After reviewing the Educause information about instant messaging, how might you use instant messaging within your class?
Exercises and Assessments
- Synchronous and asynchronous forms of communication each have distinct advantages for education (see Figure 1). Review Table 3 from the Educause site and we will engage in a short discussion of the information regarding the merits and appropriate applications for the various forms of electronic communication.
- Login to Blackboard Learn and enter the IT 106 classroom. I've enrolled you as a student in that course and have created a short quiz that pertains to the information from this workshop. You may take it multiple times if necessary, but please persist until you have at least an 80% or better score.
- Is the following statement true or false? You can schedule virtual office hours by meeting in a pre-designated chat room or by scheduling time that you will be available via instant message.