How to Engage Learners Online

Begin by planning your communication strategy

  • Tell students how you plan to use Blackboard, 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

  • Remind students to consider their own technology options:
    • What kind of personal technology students use regularly (desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone)
    • Will students depend on campus labs or a library to access your course. In case of an emergency, these may not be available. They will need to make alternate plans.
    • Will they have internet connection to use (on campus, mobile hotspot, public library, coffee shop)
  • 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 FlipGrid and have students respond using multimedia tools. FlipGrid will accept microphone, web cam, cell phone, or file upload of a media file.
  • Hosting a live Zoom 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.
    • Zoom supports breakout groups so you can structure large course discussions and small group conversations. You can also create Zoom rooms for student groups to use.

Go 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 for grading, be sure to choose Blackboard Instructor with the orange icon (not blue).
  • Be flexible with synchronous tools: Zoom has a 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. Recording to the cloud will make them available through Panopto.