Table of Contents
Efficient and effective course communication is more important than ever. In this article, we’ll go over 8 options you have for improving communication in your course. Let’s get started!
Use a course communication tool
Although asynchronous channels like email and discussion boards work, they're far from optimal. The simplest way to improve communication is to combine all communication channels into one place, rather than using multiple tools. This helps ensure that all important course information is easily accessible to students at all times. Some options for course communication are Slack, Discord, and Learnshare. You can read more about course communication platforms here.
Create and share course communication guidelines
It’s important to set clear expectations for how your communication tool of choice should be used. For example, have students make the extra effort to eliminate repetitive questions. Ask students to search through past questions and discussions before creating a new post or sending a message to ensure a similar question hasn't already been asked and answered.
You can also ask students to distinguish between urgent and non-urgent questions before posting. For non-urgent questions, have students post them publicly in a chatroom or in your discussion forum for other students to have a chance to answer. For urgent or personal questions, you can have students send you a private direct message.
Welcome and onboard students to your courseThe importance of onboarding students properly into your course communication tool cannot be understated. Here are a couple of onboarding suggestions:
- Create an amazing welcome post and pin it to the top of your course communication tool
- If students are unfamiliar with the tool, ask them to perform certain tasks to get acclimated. This can include adding a profile picture, creating a post, or commenting on the welcome post you created, for example.
IntroductionsIntroductions help in building a true community of learners. It helps students feel more comfortable with actively participating and collaborating. Therefore, it’s a great idea to ask each member of the course to create an introductory post. Then, have students comment or engage with each other’s posts and get to know each other.
Here are some ideas for what you can ask students to include in their introductory posts:
- Where they’re from
- What about your course interests them
- A fun fact about one of the following:
- What were you really interested in as a kid?
- What's something that most people don't like, but that you really enjoy?
- What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Pro Tip: The faster and higher amount of responses students get on their posts, the better. Receiving quick responses helps students feel more welcome and willing to participate. Making the effort as an instructor to respond promptly and engage with students can help establish a strong community-like foundation in your course.
Create a searchable knowledge base (FAQ)
If you use a tool that supports asynchronous posting and commenting, you can give students a resource to reference throughout your course. You can also continue to update and add information to it organically as your course progresses!
Virtual office hours
If you’re using a tool that offers real-time chat like Slack, Discord, or Learnshare, you can schedule time with students for virtual office hours. For example, with Learnshare you can create a chatroom specifically for questions during office hours.
During office hours, students can send questions in the chatroom and instructors can reply directly in real-time. Since messages are easily searchable by keyword, every student will have access to the same information and can reference the material whenever needed.
Provide extra credit for participation and answering other student questions
This can be a great option for increasing peer-to-peer collaboration and reducing your workload as an instructor. Give students the chance to answer each other’s non-urgent questions first. You’ll then be able to save time by simply verifying or endorsing correct answers, rather than answering them all yourself!
An additional benefit of having students answer each other's questions is that you'll get a better idea about where your class as a whole may be struggling with course material.
Encourage informal participation and collaboration
Graded and structured discussions do have their place. But, providing a space for students to engage with each other without having to worry about perfect grammar or receiving a grade will lead to more consistent participation.
The more students have fun and feel comfortable engaging with one another, the more they'll want to collaborate. Although this may seem less important on the surface, it can drastically impact how much students take away from the course.
A great way to reap the benefits from this is using synchronous chatrooms—rather than an asynchronous forum or discussion board. The reason for this being that real-time chat is faster and lowers the barrier for participation. This allows for a more free-flowing, organic conversation.
Looking for a new tool?
If you’re looking for a tool that can help make course communication more efficient, Learnshare can help. It’s a unique course communication platform that combines the benefits of both asynchronous and synchronous discussion into one tool. Through leveraging both a forum and real-time chat, there’s an unlimited amount of ways that you can use Learnshare in your course. Create your course for free here.