Engagement Strategies

Planning your communication strategy:

  • Before / on the first day of class, tell students how you plan to use Bb, especially if you only plan to use this resource in an emergency
  • Use all communication channels – email, voicemail, in-class announcements / classroom signs (if appropriate), Blackboard announcement
  • Maximize your reach! Be prepared to use at least two types of asynchronous and synchronous tools to maximize your options for communicating with students:

Preparing students | Student Technology Resources

  • Survey students and ask:
    • What kind of personal technology students use regularly (desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone)
    • If students depend on campus labs or a library to access your course
    • What kind of internet connection they use (on campus, Fios, mobile hotspot, public library, coffee shop)
  • Create and share a class contact directory. Include student email addresses (found in PeopleSoft roster and Blackboard course). Ask students if they have an emergency phone number they are willing to share.
  • Encourage students to sign up for e2campus alerts if they have not done so.
  • Clarify your response time and communication preference during an emergency. Will you want students to use email, phone, or text? Will you respond within 24 hours?
  • Notify students of contingency plans for academic continuity (e.g., information on syllabus & Blackboard)

Engaging students:

  • Discussion boards can support course participation when class cannot meet. Assign specific prompts to guide student responses and require students to respond to peers for further engagement.
  • Record a video or audio discussion using VoiceThread and have students respond using multimedia tools. VoiceThread will accept microphone, web cam, cell phone, or file upload of a media file.
  • Google offers a number of tools (Docs, Slides, etc.) to support student collaboration.
    • Use Google Assignments to create opportunities for peer feedback when students cannot meet in person to respond.
  • Hosting a live session may bring your students together, especially when it is normally scheduled to meet. However, be sure to record the session so students who cannot attend will be able to view the lecture.
  • Collaborate is another good resources to use to meet with students in virtual, real-time sessions.
    • Collaborate supports breakout groups so you can structure large course discussions and small group conversations. You can also create Collaborate rooms for student groups to use.

Going mobile:

  • Using the Blackboard app as mobile access via cellular network might be the only way students connect to your course. Students can view content from an Original course via the app; Ultra courses can be viewed on both a mobile browser and the mobile app.
  • If you use the Blackboard mobile app, be sure to choose Blackboard Instructor with the orange icon (not blue).
  • Be flexible with synchronous tools: Both Collaborate and Webex have dial-in options so students can still listen to your virtual session without the high-bandwidth demands required of video streaming. Record your sessions and students can download or watch them later.

Supporting labs:

When campus is closed, it can be challenging to teach a hands-on or practical component of your course. Some labs require specific equipment or collaboration is an important part of the lab experience. If your course depends on a lab, here are some options to consider:

  • Move your lab online, either partially or entirely. If your lab depends on physical manipulation of equipment or practice, this won’t work so you may have to delay those components. However, there might be other parts of a lab experience that could work online. Video demonstrations, online simulations, data analysis, and pre/post lab work are all activities that can be translated to the online environment. Once access is restored to the campus, you can address the physical or practical parts of your labs. Your course might be a bit out of order, but if the closure is brief, this might be tolerable.
  • Look into virtual labs. Several online resources might replicate the lab experience — for example, looking at the night sky, virtual dissection of animals, lab demonstrations and simulations. Virtual labs will vary widely according to discipline, but you can find many resources on YouTube, Your textbook publisher might also have resources for you to use, or you can explore Open Education Resources. PhET Simulations provides interactive, research-based science and mathematics simulations while ChemCollective offers different chemistry labs, scenario based activities, and simulations.
  • When a lab requires students to collect and analyze data, you can use video or web conferencing to show how data can be collected. Then provide raw data sets for students to analyze. While this approach is not as comprehensive as students collecting data themselves, it may help keep them engaged with some of the lab experience while the campus is closed.
  • Explore virtual desktop: Do your students need to access specialized software in a lab on campus? Check with DoIT to see if your software can be added to the virtual desktop so students can log in and access the tools.
  • Consider increased interaction. Some labs involve direct student interaction, tutoring, question and answers, etc. How can you incorporate engagement tools to replicate this experience? Collaborate and Webex are both tools you can use to meet with students.