What did they mean by that email?! Remote delivery has drastically changed the way we communicate with each other; inboxes are swamped with urgent messages, Microsoft Teams keeps pinging in the background, and the Zoom chat looks like a teleprompter running at triple speed. What can we do to protect ourselves from communication overload and to prevent miscommunication with students? Below, four Profs discuss different strategies they are using to establish communication channels in their courses, as well as strategies to promote constructive student-instructor and student-student communication habits. The inspiration for this discussion came from Prof Richard Koestner and the challenges he experienced last fall, which spurred him to rethink the communication norms in his course to create a positive learning environment for both himself and his students.
Setting Communication Norms
Establishing structured communication channels provides students with clear guidelines for how they are expected to communicate in a course and to whom they should address questions or comments. Listen to Prof. Jessica Flake from Psychology talk about the micro and macro communication system she uses in her large courses to manage high volumes of student questions.
A well-thought-out message to students can simultaneously communicate relevant information and instructor support, something that is especially meaningful to students who may be struggling with the isolation of remote learning. Listen to Prof. Jessica Flake from Psychology talk about how she crafts communications with upbeat messages to reduce any course-related stress students may be feeling, and the positive effect this has had for her class.
Technology and Communication
There are numerous technological resources available to support all aspects of remote delivery; however, sometimes technology can burden communication. Listen to Prof. Danielle Vlaho talk about streamlining the platforms used in her course to facilitate dialogue with her students. Conversely, technology can also create opportunities for more meaningful communication. Listen to Prof. Armin Yazdani from Physiology discuss his use of intelligent agents in myCourses to personalize messages to individual students.
Fostering Student Communication
Providing structured spaces in which students can communicate with each other can help to foster student-student interactions in a remote course, and can promote a sense of class community. Listen to Profs. Jessica Flake from Psychology, Armin Yazdani from Physiology, and Danielle Vlaho from Chemistry talk about their experiences with using discussion boards and FAQ documents to manage student-student and instructor-student communications.
Communicating with TAs
TAs are an integral part of the teaching team for many courses; however, more people means additional coordination to ensure that everyone is communicating the same information to students. Listen to Profs. Jessica Flake from Psychology and Danielle Vlaho from Chemistry share how they organize communications with their TAs to manage administrative and teaching conversations.
Managing Requests for Assessment Regrades
For many, emails from students with concerns or comments about exam grading have increased in volume with the transition to remote delivery. Listen to Profs. Richard Koestner from Psychology and Danielle Vlaho from Chemistry discuss how they manage regrade requests by using specific communication channels and clear regrading guidelines.