Sept 22, 2006
E-Coaching Tip 22: Emails or Announcements -- Which Tool Should I Use
A common question that comes up with online
courses is "when" to use "which" communication tools for what.
In particular, it is often hard to decide between sending an email to
everyone and using the announcement tool. One way to help decide is to
think about the characteristics of each of these tools, how students use
the tools, and what you are hoping to achieve.
Here are a few simple guidelines you might
try. See how they fit for you!
- If you absolutely, positively must reach all students quickly, email
is the best way to go. Email is a "push" technology meaning that
students do not have to actively "go to" anywhere. Email lands
in the students' mailboxes, on their computers, cell phones, blackberries,
etc. If a message is urgent, you will probably also want to repeat it
in an announcement on the course site. So in this case, it is not either-or,
- The announcement tool is good for general messages and reminders,
such as the following:
- General schedule reminders, such as holidays, assignments, project
- Reminders about the week's activities
- Announcements about special opportunities and events at the institution
- Reminders about general course processes, such as the importance of
making discussion postings early in the week
- Email is the best tool for personal one-to-one communication. This
is the "tool of choice" when providing individual feedback on assignments
and in responding to personal events or questions.
- What about using email for general course updates? For answers to
questions? For shaping student's responses to postings, etc. This is
where experience comes into play and it is good to keep general goals
in mind, as these are the cases when "it all depends." Here are
three goals to help guide your choice of communication tool.
- One primary goal is that of building a learning community and in creating
an environment in which ideas are shared, knowledge is created, and
dialogue of one-to-many is encouraged. The course management site is
our modern day classroom, and thus most discussion is either with small
or large groups. With this goal in mind, using the announcement tool
and the discussion board are probably the first choice, as the postings
become part of the course experience and the course resources. However,
any particular circumstance might argue the other way. Some faculty
like to use email as a way of wrapping up discussions, or summarizing
ideas, or a ‘quick touch" regarding important current events.
- A second goal is that of faculty efficiency. A good general rule is
that any question worth answering for one student is probably worth
answering for all students. Thus better to do one posting or email to
all students than to just one student. Also as much teaching as to do
with "spiraling of content" to emphasize subtleties of concept
building, multiple postings -- both by email and discussion -- can be
- A third goal is to support and encourage student-to-student communication
and networking. This is another aspect of the goal of building a learning
community. So asking students to help each other when possible and appropriate
is also a choice to keep in mind.
- Finally, your student group as a whole may have preferences. So, adjusting
as you go -- just as you do face-to-face-- is a good strategy.
If you have a good story about what has
worked or not worked for you, please send along!
E-Coaching Tip 22: Emails or Announcements -- Which Tool Should I Use for What?
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