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Communication

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Remote learning is often considered to be isolating for students due to the perceived lack of connection with instructors and other students; therefore, communication is a critical component of remote teaching and learning. By establishing regular opportunities for interaction, the transactional distance between instructor and student is decreased. Communication goes beyond engagement and helps provide students with clear expectations. 

At the University of Guelph, there are several CourseLink associated tools that can help you to communicate with your students based on your goals. For more information on selecting a communication method, please see the feature chart and tools below. 

Features of CourseLink Tools

Features Announcements Discussions Classlist Intelligent Agents Web Conferencing
Synchronous  no. no. no. no. yes.
Asynchronous  yes. yes. yes. yes. no.
One-way communication yes. no. yes. yes. no.
Two-way communication no. yes. somewhat. somewhat. yes.
Chronological record of interactions yes. yes. no. somewhat. yes.
Sharing time sensitive information yes. no. yes. no. somewhat.
Setting expectations for students yes. no. yes. no. yes.
Use of video available  yes. yes. somewhat. somewhat. yes.
Critical mass of active members needed no. yes. no. no. yes.

Table Key: yes. = yes,  somewhat. = somewhat,  no. = no

Additional Resources

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Discussions 

Discussions are the heart of many online courses. This versatile communication method can be used to build connections with and between students, answer common questions students have about the course, function as a space for collaboration, and serve as an assessment tool. 

Additional Resources

Tools
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Use Cases
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  • Getting to Know You forums: Build a class community by encouraging students to participate in a forum where they get to know their classmates. If your class is large, consider dividing the class into smaller groups, especially if they will be participating in other group discussions together later in the class.
  • Question and Answer (Q & A) Forum: Consider creating a Q & A forum within Discussions for students to ask the instructional team questions. This can cut down on emails and allow you to respond to common questions once, and in a place that all students can access. 

Announcements 

Announcements is a great way to communicate and engage with students outside of class time; however, it is important to remember that students will only see an announcement if they access your course site or if they have opted to receive notifications via email or text. With that in mind, it is best not to rely on the Announcements tool for any communication that all students should receive in a timely fashion. For communications such as that, it would be best to email the entire class via the Classlist tool. 

Be careful not to overuse the Announcements tool. Students' accounts in CourseLink are set to receive email notifications for new announcements from all their course sites by default. If you are posting multiple announcements several times a day, students may become frustrated by the volume of emails and block your course site from their notifications.

Additional Resources

Tools
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Use Cases
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  • Introductory message: Consider creating a video note announcement to introduce yourself and your course to your students. You may also wish to craft an announcement to introduce the content and expectations for each week of the class.
  • Reminders: It can be beneficial to post announcements concerning important dates, such as assignment due dates, the live lecture schedule, virtual office hours, etc. Announcements can also be paired with Release Conditions to send targeted reminders to students (i.e., reminding students to complete a quiz).
  • Encouragement: An announcement can be a great way to let the class know when you are impressed by their work; similarly, if after grading an assignment or seeing the results of a quiz you notice that the majority of the class is struggling with a specific concept or theory, an announcement can be a great way to direct students to supplemental materials to reinforce those concepts.
  • Making connections to current events: In some disciplines, current events can often intersect nicely with course materials and provide students with a real-world example of how the material they are studying can be applied in real-world situations. Creating an announcement to provide some context as well as a link to a news article or video can be a great way to engage students and encourage critical thinking. 
Resources
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Classlist 

You can use the Courselink Classlist tool to manage information about students and send email messages to one, several, or all Classlist members at once. You can find the Classlist tool within the Course Admin tab. 

When emailing multiple class members, email addresses are added to the BCC field. Keep them there so that individual users aren’t identified when sharing sensitive information. 

Additional Resources

Use Cases
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  • Immediate communication: Sending out an email to the entire classlist is a good way to get time-sensitive information out to your students, such as a change in schedule or an update on an assessment.
  • Monitor student progress: While the classlist is often used to send emails, it also allows you to see how students are progressing through content within the course and identify students that might be falling behind. 
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Intelligent Agents 

Intelligent Agents (IAs) is a tool in CourseLink that be very powerful for communication in a remote delivery setting. They will automatically scan CourseLink for user-defined criteria. If this criterion is met, the intelligent agent sends an email to pre-defined addresses to alert them. This can be accomplished by using the email address in question or by utilizing replace strings. Intelligent agents work well with release conditions, but also use some unique criteria. 

Additional Resources

Tools
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Use Cases
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  • Checking in with students: Using Intelligent Agents, you can send automated emails to students who meet specific criteria. Consider setting up an agent to check in with students who have not accessed your course site during the first week of classes.
  • Midterm Results: Send targeted emails based on performance on an assessment, like a midterm. 
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Office Hours 

Consider holding regular virtual office hours that students can drop into if they have questions about the week’s content or in preparation for an examination. 

Additional Resources

Tools
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Use Cases
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  • Open vs Close: Will you offer regular hours that are open to all students or schedule individual meetings with students?
  • Use Breakout rooms: If you are holding open office hours, take advantage of the breakout room features available when you need to have a private conversation with an individual student.  
Resources
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  • Online Office Hours (tools and tips) (resource coming soon)

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